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Funding means new clients for midwives

St. Albert Community Midwives is once again accepting new clients, thanks to additional funding received last week. Five months after setting up along St.
NEW FUNDING – Last month Sabrina Roy
NEW FUNDING – Last month Sabrina Roy

St. Albert Community Midwives is once again accepting new clients, thanks to additional funding received last week.

Five months after setting up along St. Albert Trail, Jennifer Thomson, Sabrina Roy and Anna Gimpel were surprised to find they would only be receiving provincial funding for 52 births this year.

Well below the 96 courses of care needed to make their operation financially viable, the three midwives thought they would be forced to shut their doors as quickly as they had opened them.

“We knew there were problems with courses of care; we never thought we’d get full capacity, but we thought we would get enough to stay open,” said Thomson of the March funding allocation. “We never thought they would shortchange us as much as they did.”

On Friday, Alberta Health Services delivered some good news to Thomson and her colleagues: they would be receiving a portion of the 400 additional courses of care announced in the 2016 budget.

“It means we can continue serving in the community. We thought we were going to have to close our office and work out of our houses, which aren’t in St. Albert,” said Thomson. “At the moment we can stay.”

Nicole Matheson, president of the Alberta Association of Midwives, was happy to see AHS engage with the affected clinics during this second round of allocations.

Part of the problem was that AHS did not account for migration within the profession or the opening of new clinics when doling out courses of care in March. This left several newly established practices such as St. Albert’s without the appropriate level of funding.

As far as Matheson knows, all practices that were in danger of closing received enough allocations to stay viable.

“We have not heard of any practices since the (latest) allocation that won’t be able to stay open,” she said. “We’re very excited about that part.”

She was also encouraged by the news last month that the province would be expanding funding for midwifery care, but says that AAM still has a long way to go before reaching its goal of supporting 10 per cent of all births by 2020.

Currently the provincial government caps the number of midwife-assisted births. While the number will grow to 4,000 in the next three years thanks to new funding promised in Budget 2016, Matheson said it’s not enough to keep up with supply, nor demand.

The AAM will be working with AHS, the College of Midwives of Alberta and Mount Royal University to come up with a more sustainable funding model – one where the health-care dollars would more easily follow pregnant women, regardless of their childbirth preferences.

“That is our hope eventually – that we would be able to have a system where any woman who wants a midwife would be able to access midwifery care,” said Matheson.

St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud was pleased to hear the clinic would remain open. She had been advocating on its behalf since the funding allocation was announced in late-March.

Renaud said the clinic’s plight spoke to her on different levels. Not only did she want to see Thomson, Roy and Gimpel succeed as women in business, she wanted to ensure that St. Albert and the surrounding areas had access to midwifery services.

“There are just over 90 midwives in Alberta. We’re lucky enough to have three in St. Albert. I wasn’t about to let that go without a fight,” said Renaud.

St. Albert Community Midwives also serves Sturgeon and Parkland counties, as well as the city of Edmonton.