They’re mandated by the province as primary healthcare providers, but expectant parents in southern Alberta who opt for the services of midwives can still face limitations when it comes where they delivery their child.
As is the case for Lethbridge resident Jessica Miller, who gave birth to her son Jasper last year. She and her husband opted for midwifery services, but wanted their midwife to deliver their son in a hospital. That option is not available at the Chinook Regional Hospital.
“It kind of comes down to having equal access to the medical care you’re looking for,” Miller said.
So when Jessica went into labour, the Millers had to drive and hour away to Cardston for their delivery.
It is a a predicament unique to Lethbridge, with midwifery care and delivery services available at hospitals in Medicine Hat, Brooks and Cardston.
“At this point families choosing midwives in this area are limited as to what services they can access,” said Eve Verdon, a registered midwife with Cardston Midwives.
In 2009, Alberta Health Services announced they would publicly fund midwifery services and allow hospital privileges to midwives for delivery in facilities across the province.
AHS would not say why those services are not currently available to expectant parents in Lethbridge, but in a statement to Global News said:
“Alberta Health Services recognizes there is significant interest in having local midwifery services available in Lethbridge and surrounding areas. Planning is now underway to integrate midwifery services within Chinook Regional Hospital (CRH), working alongside other obstetrical teams within the facility, and we anticipate midwifery services will be incorporated within CRH’s obstetrics program during the 2019/20 fiscal year.
“This planning process will include consultation with local AHS leaders, physicians and hospital obstetrical teams, community members, and midwifery groups. It will take into account local population health needs and existing infrastructure.
“Within the AHS South Zone, there are seven midwives, providing services in Medicine Hat, Brooks and Cardston.
“Midwives are primary healthcare providers and are able to offer antepartum, intrapartum (delivery) and postpartum care to Alberta families.”
It’s an outcome both midwives and their patients hope to see come to fruition.
“We’ve been requesting the ability to have privileges in the Lethbridge hospital for several years and it’s taken some time to roll that out,” registered midwife with the Cardston Midwives, Terri Demers said. “So it’s great that there is this renewed energy towards re-focusing and making sure that that gets done in 2019.”
“To be able to go up the street, literally to the hospital instead of having to drive during labour, then that would be fantastic,” Miller added.