Midwives have asked the government for more pay and the Minister of Health, David Clark, says he is listening.
What is a midwife? She is a trained health professional. She (it’s usually a woman) cares for women who are pregnant, before the birth of the baby, during the birth and for 6 weeks afterwards. While some midwives work in a hospital, most are self-employed. Some have their own office where pregnant women attend, while a few midwives visit the pregnant woman in her home instead. A self-employed midwife is called the Lead Maternity Carer (LMC). A specialist doctor is called when necessary, but the belief of midwives is that pregnancy is not a sickness and most women can manage a normal delivery of a baby at home or in a hospital.
A LMC is paid by the Ministry of Health. She is expected to take 40 women a year and for this number, she would be paid about $62,000 a year but of course she has expenses to deduct from that. The main expense is her car, but she may also rent an office, buy equipment and so on. She gets no holiday pay, sick pay or annual leave. Many babies are born at night, so a midwife has to get used to losing sleep. Midwives, like most of us, want time off over the Christmas period. Some women whose babies are due around Christmas say they are having difficulty finding a midwife.
For rural midwives, the work load can be too much and the pay too little. Two Wanaka midwives said they expect to be working with 200 women this year. They are working more than 100 hours a week but after deducting expenses, they earn only $5 to $10 an hour. One of them has decided to give up her job which will be a difficult situation for local women. Other midwives, including some in cities, say that “burn-out” is a problem.
The Minister of Health, David Clark, says he expects the Budget this year will have some good news for midwives.