The spotlight is currently on the country’s midwifery workforce woes with politicians and DHBs scrambling to find solutions, but for those at the coalface the answer to the nationwide crisis is simple: “Pay us what we are worth.”
Open Letter to Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern and Cabinet
April 23rd 2020
Dear Prime Minister
Your strategy of “going hard and going early” with Covid-19 has been quite rightly applauded around the world. It would have been great if the same strategy had been adopted for pay equity.
Community-based midwives have been actively seeking pay equity since 2015. This is how gender pay gaps persist: Never prioritised, ignored, and the work of women taken for granted whenever the next demand for funds comes along.
Midwives have gone to court, run campaigns and even thought we had a legally binding mediation agreement with the Ministry of Health, and yet our situation remains woeful. A report released by the NZ Institute of Economic Research in March has shown that under the current funding structure, community-based midwives are providing up to 26% of care for free; and that was before Covid-19 hit. This and the previous government, have failed to deliver meaningful progress towards pay equity for midwives, and now adding insult to injury we see other health professionals, such as GPs and pharmacists, receive extra financial assistance for Covid-19.
Community-based midwives are key frontline essential service providers, and they are working harder than ever. An already stretched and demoralised service continues on without even a whiff of assurance from Cabinet that this years’ Budget will actually deliver a funding model that addresses the very real and well-documented pay equity concerns.
Prime Minister you are being lauded internationally for your model response of empathy, clarity and trust in science. Why not use this approach to settle the long-standing issues with our community midwifery service? There is an abundance of evidence to support the positive health outcomes for women and babies that our continuity of care model provides.
The internet is awash with jokes and memes about the impending baby boom post lockdown. If this translates to reality these babies are set to be born into struggling households with new financial stress at Christmas. This brings additional demand on already overburdened midwifery care. Care that we love to provide but not at the cost to our own families and financial futures.
On behalf of the new New Zealand, we implore you Prime Minister to assist us in future proofing a maternity model that, like you, is applauded internationally. You may not be able to “go early” but you could “go hard” and “do this!”.
Sarah Gilbertson and Andrea Sarty (Registered Midwives)
NB: Photo from stock prior to COVID-19 pandemic