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New funds for local midwives

Health Minister Christine Elliott (second from right) and Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris (left) were in St. Jacobs Monday to announce the St. Jacobs Midwives will receive $232,000 as part of $28 million in new funding for midwifery services in the province. [Veronica Reiner / The Observer]

St. Jacobs Midwives will receive $232,000 as part of the provincial government’s $28-million expansion plan for midwifery services in Ontario.

Health Minister Christine Elliott was in the village Monday morning to make the announcement, joined by Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris.

“This additional funding will mean more expecting families across Ontario will be able to access quality care from a midwife during pregnancy, labour, and birth as well as six weeks of support once the baby is born,” said Elliott.

St. Jacobs Midwives serves residents in the Woolwich and Wellesley townships, as well as Kitchener, Waterloo, Wilmot, and surrounding rural areas.

Rosslyn Bentley, executive director of Woolwich Community Health Centre, said that there are between 40 and 60 families at any given time waiting for the services of a midwife.

“It’s a very popular choice with many of the families locally,” said Bentley. “It’s a very cost-effective way of delivering care, as well and really excellent results for low-risk women, which is the vast majority of people that are expecting a baby.”

In addition to potentially clearing that waitlist across Waterloo Region, the funding could allow the organization to hire new midwives.

“We have a challenge locally in that there are already 10 midwifery spaces funded at the St. Jacobs midwives. Unfortunately, because they are only granted so many spaces for privileges at Grand River Hospital, we’ve currently only got nine midwives instead of 10,” said Bentley. “So we hope that with this funding, the hospital will perhaps re-examine its submitting privileges and allow for all of the funded midwifery spots to be able to do admissions.”

If the organization can receive hospital privileges, it intends to fill those vacant positions and to seek room for two new registrants.

In addition to aiding existing midwifery services, the provincial money is expected to support up to 90 new graduates entering the field, help midwifery groups acquire new technology and expand Indigenous midwifery programs.

“I am also proud to announce that our government is working to responsibly expand the scope of practice for midwives to allow them to prescribe more medications to clients,” said Elliott. “This change will empower midwives to better use their education and training, to provide great choice and convenience for families, and reduce time for patients to wait for medications and therapies.”

Other health care providers receiving funding include Guelph Midwives at $137,767, Family Midwifery Care of Guelph getting $95,042, and Blue Heron Midwives with $13,880.

Bentley added that the funding announcement came somewhat out of the blue just late last week.

“It was something that the Ontario Association of Midwifery has been lobbying for, for some time,” said Bentley. “It wasn’t anything we knew was on the horizon, so this was a pleasant surprise.”

There are some 900 midwives in Ontario, serving 89 communities across the province. This year, more than 29,000 families will have the care of a midwife, according to the association, with the new funding allowing room for another 3,400.

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