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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Alberta Includes Midwifery Under Health Care Services - Finally

The Stelmach government once again shows its progressive side by including midwifery in the fully funded public health care system. This has been a long time coming and credit is due to the Stelmach government in this positive policy position.

I acted as legal counsel for the Alberta Association of Midwives many years ago and managed to get them legal status as a profession. A breakthrough in the “negotiations” happened when a Red Deer doctor complained to the RCMP about a mother having a home birth that had no complications. Charges were laid and the public saw this as ridiculous and abusive – which it was. It was also seen as by the public as turf protection by some members of the medical profession. To their credit, not all physicians had this attitude.

The mom hired a lawyer to push the matter through courts and I pursued it in the court of public opinion. We won in both courts and midwifery became legal as the political barriers that many backward thinking politicians had put up suddenly disappeared. Midwives became recognized as a profession under Alberta law – but the province refused to include them in the health care system for years.

Midwifery services have always been part of the access to services and wait times solution. With the shortages and aging of family physicians and obstetricians midwifery service is not so much an innovation as a necessity.

Alberta is slow to get up to speed on midwifery services compared to other provinces. We were never able to get them included in the public health care system for pure political reasons. The same backward attitudes slowed down seatbelts, smoking bans and unfunded teacher’s pension liability. Well Ed Stelmach has changed all that and now he adds enlightened policy on midwifery to his accomplishments. Congratulations Premier Stelmach and to all those who involved in this wonderful decision.