Seven years after opening, Winnipeg’s multi-million dollar Birth Centre is still operating well below its intended target level.
Staff say the problem isn’t with the centre, it’s with the 500 births per year expectation set out by the former NDP government.
“That number is a number that has been put out into the world,” Women’s Health Clinic Executive Director Nadine Sookermany said. “Is it realistic? It certainly is in other jurisdictions, but not necessarily here.”
The $3.5 million facility, with $2.6 million in annual operating costs, opened in 2011 and has never come close to delivering even half its target number.
While baby number 204 of 2018 was delivered this week, they’ve still only achieved 40 per cent of the target.
But Sookermany said staff believe they are operating near capacity.
“I believe the 200 to 240 mark is sort of what we can do with what we have,” Sookermany said. “I think we are at that moment, that tipping moment.”
Data provided by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) shows when the centre opened in 2011, there were six births. Since then, the numbers have increased each year.
In it’s first full year of operation there were 120 births. Each year since, the number of babies born has gone up.
Births per year:
The centre has struggled with a shortage of midwives since opening — a problem that continues to plague the facility today.
“We need more midwives and we need more funds to be able to support all of the costs that are connected to a birth,” Sookermany said.
According to the College of Midwives of Manitoba, there are 55 registered practicing midwives in the province, 33 of whom are working within the WRHA. There are just 13 at the Birth Centre.
Previously, the college said 200 spots were needed to fill the demand. There are 12 to 13 students expected to graduate the midwifery program in May 2019.
However, as of right now, the WRHA said now there are zero vacancies.
“If we were funded to hire more midwives, that’s not us, they are employees of the region. If they hired more midwives we would have the capacity,” she said.
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