As a city already known for its quality health care facilities, St. Albert should jump at the opportunity to offer more services – and all that’s required is a small bylaw change to make it happen.
The St. Albert Community Midwives are on the hunt for a suitable location for a birthing centre, which would put St. Albert on the map as one of only three places province-wide with such centres. If the group succeeds, the centre would give moms-to-be a comfortable, home-like space to give birth under the care of local midwives.
It would come at zero cost to the city, save for the time it takes to amend St. Albert’s land use bylaw to allow such facilities to operate on residential property. It’s a no-brainer.
Alberta has been a leader in midwifery Canada-wide for a long time. Twenty-five years ago, Alberta and Ontario were the first provinces to implement legislation to regulate the primary care service; and since 2009, midwives have been fully funded through the government and there is no fee for service. The existence of midwives also helps alleviate the pressure of low-risk births on hospitals, allowing doctors to focus more on higher-risk births.
Yet birthing centres are still rare, which means expecting parents who want to use a midwife typically have to have the birth at their own home or in a hospital. The options are even more limited for people who live in rural areas.
Anna Gimpel, a registered midwife with the St. Albert Community Midwives, told city council on Sept. 16 their team has expanded to five midwives today, serving an average of 120 clients per year. They expect a jump next year up to 200 clients.
She pointed out having a birthing centre in St. Albert would provide an option for women living in places such as Morinville and communities north who cannot currently have home births because they’re too far away from a hospital in the event of any complications.
More access for midwives and more options for pregnant women would be a good thing for our city, and possibly for the province’s bottom line. In 2016, the Association for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth (ASAC) released a report suggesting better access to midwifery care could save Alberta tens of millions – potentially hundreds of millions – of dollars.
That’s because the high cost of hospitalization means births at home or in a birthing centre are $2,000 cheaper than a vaginal birth with an obstetrician and more than $6,000 cheaper than a caesarean birth.
St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud told council midwives play a “vital and valuable” role in the region, and expectant mom Kate Vogelaar said she has already delivered two babies with midwives and hopes to deliver her third in a birthing centre.
“I love St. Albert, I think it’s very family friendly, very forward thinking and I think having a birthing centre here would actually put St. Albert even more on the map,” she said.
We couldn’t agree more. While the process of amending the land use bylaw will take some time, this is a change that ought to be made as soon as possible.