Midwives matter, alongside mothers and babies in their care

As midwives, nurses and other health professionals pause to recognise International Day of the Midwife, many midwives across NSW are grappling with the challenges they face without safe staffing ratios.

The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) wants the NSW government to introduce a ratio of one midwife to three mothers and their babies on postnatal maternity wards, a full review of the Birthrate Plus staffing system, and for extra Clinical Midwifery Educators to be employed.

NSWNMA General Secretary and former midwife, Brett Holmes, said while midwives and their profession deserved to be celebrated today, they were also confronted by significant hurdles.

“This is an important day to recognise the critical work of midwives who assist mothers in the safe delivery of their children. It’s a challenging profession but it’s also extremely rewarding,” said Mr Holmes.

“There’s no denying we have a midwifery shortage in NSW. This is undoubtedly adding to the strain and growing workload of midwives, who are attempting to safely support parents and babies at a crucial point in their lives.

NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Shaye Candish, said it was imperative mothers and babies were afforded access to quality midwifery care in all facilities across the state.

“On behalf of members, we’re continuing to fight for the correct number of midwives on shift, so they can deliver safe care to mothers and their babies,” said Ms Candish.

“Highly skilled, professional midwives are flat-out trying to work in a broken health system and we’re seeing them reduce their hours or move interstate where conditions and pay is better.”

Honouring International Day of the Midwife alongside colleagues, NSWNMA Macarthur Branch president and midwife of more than 20 years, Nichole Flegg, said the challenges midwives face were very real.

“There’s been no reprieve in maternity, despite many occasions of highlighting the need for more midwives and a better skill mix of staff who support us,” said Ms Flegg.

“We absolutely love the role we play helping to deliver babies and supporting their parents, but it’s tough and morale is low. Experienced midwives are leaving because our working conditions are unsustainable. The stress on senior midwifery staff is next level.”

NSWNMA Wagga Wagga Base Hospital Branch vice president and midwife, Karen Hart, agreed the additional strain on midwives was taking a toll and safe staffing ratios were desperately needed in maternity.

“There’s no sugar-coating how difficult our workloads are or how devastated we feel that our concerns haven’t been addressed. We need maternity ratios to provide safe care,” said Ms Hart.

“This has been going on for too long. Without minimum staffing ratios, more clinical midwifery educators and better conditions for midwives in regional areas, we’ll continue to see more midwives walking away.”

The NSWNMA is continuing to urge the NSW government to implement nursing and midwifery staffing ratios on every shift, not just on average, in all NSW public hospitals.

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