There is still no set timeline for when a midwifery program will be rolled out on the Island.
In an email to the Guardian, the Department of Health and Wellness said it is currently looking to hire a co-ordinator to begin the integration of midwives into the health system.
The job of midwives is to care for people with low-risk pregnancies, offering primary care throughout the prenatal period, the birth and up until six weeks postpartum for mother and baby.
The government first passed changes to the Regulated Health Professions Act in May 2017, but midwifery wasn't funded until the 2020-21 budget passed in the fall, which included $150,000 for midwifery services. At the time, Health Minister James Aylward told reporters he expected to see those services begin in January 2020.
The health department now says integrating midwives into the health-care system requires the development of program guidelines, as well as regulations for the profession "to ensure these services are delivered in a safe, appropriate, and co-ordinated manner."
The statement from the department did not include a new timeline for when the services will begin.
It did say after discussions with the Canadian Association of Midwives have laid out a plan for a midwifery co-ordinator, which will be "extremely valuable".
The midwifery co-ordinator will work with the Department of Health and Wellness, Health P.E.I., physicians in obstetrics and family medicine and other health-care providers to find ways to implement the new midwifery services as an alternative to natal care.
Amy-Mae Jewell welcomes news of midwifery coming to P.E.I., whenever that might be.
“As P.E.I. is the last province to regulate the profession, we have an exciting opportunity to carefully look at what has worked in other provinces, and what hasn’t, to tailor the model to meet the Island’s needs,” she said.
Originally from Covehead, the third-year Ryerson student is currently in the middle of her midwifery education in Toronto, and has many hopes for the services in P.E.I.
“I think the foremost priority should be the collaboration between midwives and their interprofessional colleagues on the Island,” she said.
“Education and communication between providers will help ensure a smooth transition, which will benefit providers and patients alike.”
Jewell said the foundation of midwifery is built on the principles of informed choice, continuity of care and choice of birthplace. Women are given all of the possible information so that they may be an active decision-maker in their pregnancy, birth and postpartum time.
Families get to know a small group of midwives during their pregnancy, and can count of having one of these midwives at their birth.
Clients with midwives have lengthy 30-45 minute appointments, and benefit from attentive postpartum care, which includes many home visits. Under midwifery care, women have options in where they have their babies. In Ontario, for example, clients have the option of birthing in the hospital, at home or in a birth centre.
“As midwives, we advocate for home birth as a safe option, but we fully support our clients’ decisions, which could include a hospital birth with an epidural, " Jewell said.
“Due to the Island’s widely dispersed rural population, implementing home birth as an option here will require some careful considerations and planning.”
Jewell notes that a midwife can be a beneficial advocate for the most vulnerable populations, as the midwifery model builds in time to tailor care to folks’ specific individual or cultural needs.
Midwives also help to alleviate pressure on the health-care system.
“A full-time midwife, depending on the community they work in, typically does around 40 births a year,” she said.
“As midwives become established in P.E.I., they will help to alleviate some of the stress currently placed on Island family doctors and obstetricians.”
Jewell said P.E.I. is a unique province with unique demands.
“I look forward to continuing to be a part of this important conversation in my home province, where I hope to return and practise some day.”