On Nov. 14, the Prince Rupert Advocates for Midwifery formed and in two weeks its membership has grown to more than 60 people.
“I think what prompted me was just some recent conversations with other friends who have had experiences delivering babies in Prince Rupert,” said Jessica Hawryshyn, who is the founding member of the group.
Two and a half years ago, she gave birth to her daughter at the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital. Since then, she has heard a growing interest from women who want to have more options when it comes to maternity care in Prince Rupert.
Currently, there are more than 10 midwives practicing and holding privileges across the north, including the Village of Queen Charlotte and Masset, Smithers, Hazelton, Prince George, and Dawson Creek.
While Terrace has one registered midwife, she doesn’t have privileges through Northern Health to practice at Mills Memorial Hospital. However, she is currently providing prenatal and postpartum care to mothers from the region.
“Midwives are regulated by the BC College of Midwives, which requires they apply for hospital privileges and make every reasonable effort to obtain privileges in the geographic area in which they intend to provide services,” said Eryn Collins, Northern Health spokesperson, in an email.
“As the number of midwives in northern B.C. increases, Northern Health is continually working to more effectively incorporate midwifery into the continuum of perinatal care services.”
The movement to bring midwifery services to rural communities in northern B.C. is a topic North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice is familiar with. In 2016, when the NDP was the official opposition, Rice served as the northern and rural health critic. That year, she toured the province to discover challenges in maternity care.
“When this group got interested just recently I got pretty excited. It was my opinion that this is a service that we can provide here in the northwest,” Rice said.
While Prince Rupert has a team of physicians and an OB-GYN that can perform a Caesarean at the hospital, there is a growing desire to have a highly trained midwife, who can also do a lot of the prenatal and postpartum care, and who can help deliver the baby at home instead of at the hospital.
Midwifery services are a billable service under MSP, just as a physician’s services are. They have four years of university training, and once they acquire privileges with Northern Health, they can work with general practitioners, pediatricians, nurse practitioners and obstetricians.
“I did meet with Northern Health recently to convey that there is this movement within Prince Rupert around midwifery services. I know Northern Health is doing some exploratory work on what midwifery work could look like, not necessarily in Prince Rupert but just within the health authority,” Rice said, who then reiterated that the government and health minister fundamentally support midwifery care.
Northern Health said they are not aware of anyone who has applied recently for hospital privileges in Prince Rupert to practice midwifery.
A woman should be able to choose
When Jessica Hawryshyn had her baby she experienced Prince Rupert’s system of maternal care. Physicians are rotated through the maternity clinic that runs every Wednesday. There are routine appointments and mothers deliver at the hospital. There is a program for postnatal care involving a public health nurse who visits the new mother at her home.
While Prince Rupert is not rural enough to have mothers travelling to another community for safe access to emergency Cesarean services, advocates say there is a lack of choice for care.
“A woman should be able to choose. Does she want to give birth in a hospital or at home? Does she want to have a scheduled Cesarean or try for a vaginal delivery? Does she want to have pain relief while she’s delivering or not, and do you want to deliver with a doctor and nurse or with a midwife?” Hawryshyn said.
It’s also the relationship with the midwife that she feels is important. “Midwives spend more time with their patients. I think a lot of times women appreciate having that time to be able to ask questions and just feel like they have that relationship and comfort with the person who ultimately is going to be delivering their baby.”
In early December, the Prince Rupert Advocates for Midwifery are meeting with Mayor Lee Brain and MLA Rice to learn more about what can be done to bring more choice and services to the region.