Norfolk midwives celebrate tribunal ruling

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Members of Norfolk Roots Midwives are looking forward to an upgrade now that the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has upheld their complaint about inequitable funding.

“The tribunal has actually ordered this fixed,” said Amanda Antal of Langton, a lactation counsellor and birth attendant with Norfolk Roots. “This is new and just this week. This is a win for our group.

“The government has dropped the ball on funding. It’s a hard truth, but an inconvenient truth.”

Frustration has been building for the Ontario Association of Midwives since the province’s health-care system welcomed them in 1994.

At the time, the province slotted midwives between the top salary of senior nurses and at about 90 per cent the base salary of an entry-level family doctor. Ontario’s 950-plus midwives – all but one of whom is female – earn between $82,080 and $106,920 a year depending on how many clients they serve.

This compares with the $191,720 to $221,200 family doctors with an obstetrical sideline earn in a typical year.

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AOM argued that the province has allowed the gap to widen over the past 26 years. The association cited a 2010 provincial report that said the work of midwives was undervalued by 20 per cent relative to comparable work in the health-care field.

AOM launched its appeal in 2013. It argues that the pay-equity gap has only widened since then, and that this is due to midwifery being a female profession providing services to other women.

AOM members justify their pay claims by saying they must obtain a four-year bachelor of health sciences degree and assist with at least 60 births before they are admitted to the profession, and only then after a year of supervised practice.

Rebekah Ghent, a midwife with Norfolk Roots, says qualified members are trained to respond to birth emergencies, including breach birth, post-partum hemorrhage, umbilical cord complications, complications requiring intubation, and shoulder dystocia.

Ghent added that midwives attending home births bring the same array of equipment and medications to bear that one would find in the natal unit at Norfolk General Hospital.

“Another thing women love about midwifery is we come to their homes in the weeks after child birth,” Ghent said. “We weigh the baby, make sure the baby is breast-feeding and that mom is recovering normally.”

The Ontario government has not responded to the tribunal ruling. The province could appeal but AOM hopes it chooses to re-commit to the pay-equity principles articulated in 1994.

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Antal and Ghent were getting the word out about their services during the recent Health, Wellness and Recreation Fair at The Aud in Simcoe. A diverse cross-section of the community was represented, many of them associated with alternative health care.

Information and services were on offer in fields such as hypnosis, weight loss, stress relief and naturopathic medicine. Spiritual counselling based on Asian traditions was on offer, as was advice from the Brant-Haldimand-Norfolk Community Legal Clinic, the Simcoe and District Horticultural Society and Habitat for Humanity Brant-Norfolk among others.

“This is the wellness fair, and volunteerism is good for your health,” said Renee Vanderharst, volunteer co-ordinator and community relations ambassador for the local Habitat chapter.

“Volunteerism helps with your community and helps you connect with the place you call home.”

– with files from Postmedia

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