Coronavirus: 'Baffled' midwives pulling extra hours for same pay plea for help

Midwives are calling on the Government for compensation as they work around the clock to help new mums during the lockdown.

With mothers leaving hospital early, midwives say they are picking up additional clinical and pastoral work - from checking on post-operative C-section mothers to picking up prescriptions from the pharmacy so that mums can stay safe in their bubbles.

The New Zealand College of Midwives' chief executive Alison Eddy says the additional work exacerbates an existing problem - that midwives work many more hours than they're paid for. 

A report from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research last month found midwives before the pandemic were working 17 to 26 percent more than a full-time equivalent role - hours they aren't compensated for. 

For mums like Ellen Stopforth, who gave birth to Jethro two weeks ago, her midwife was invaluable. 

“It was quite an emotional time for me. Knowing my partner and daughter wouldn't be with me [after] the birth was hard," Stopforth told Newshub.

She left hospital early, and from there leaned on her midwife for support.

Ellen Stopforth, who gave birth to Jethro two weeks ago, says her midwife was invaluable.
Ellen Stopforth, who gave birth to Jethro two weeks ago, says her midwife was invaluable. Photo credit: Newshub

"Not being able to have support from family and friends has been tricky, so having her visit daily and be able to check in on us has been massive."

Her midwife, Bex Tidball, is working her socks off. She's a community midwife based in north Canterbury, so additional home visits means extra hours at the wheel - alone.

"I have been a lot busier. Lots more visits, lots more travel, sourcing equipment, a lot of time doing video calls," Tidball told Newshub. She's taking calls from women discharged weeks ago, who are anxious 

Eddy is worried overworked midwives could end up leaving the profession, so says the Government needs to act.

"Community midwives were already overworked and underpaid and this has simply compounded that."

"There's a lot of unhappy midwives out there at the moment."

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield recognises the extra work midwives are putting in. 

"There is work underway to make sure they are funded for any additional costs they are incurring," he said. 

But the Government isn’t quite committing.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins today saying he's "not in a position to make any announcements", and a statement from Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter acknowledges the issues but doesn't point to any imminent announcements.

"We are aware of the issues, and I’ll continue to be pushing for midwives to be recognised for what they do,"  the statement read.

While Bloomfield has signalled support for midwives, we are nearly four weeks in the lockdown. 

The Government's shown it can free up cash fast. It just hasn't got there yet for midwives.