Dunedin midwives deliver heartbreaking stories to MP

A group fighting for improved working conditions for midwives has bombarded the Health Minister's office with heartbreaking stories midwives face. Photo: Dear David, Aotearoa needs Midwives
A group fighting for improved working conditions for midwives has bombarded the Health Minister's office with heartbreaking stories midwives face. Photo: Dear David, Aotearoa needs Midwives

A group fighting for improved working conditions for midwives has bombarded Health Minister David Clark's office with heartbreaking stories midwives face every day in New Zealand.

Dear David, Aotearoa needs Midwives Facebook group admin showed up to Labour MP David Clark's Dunedin office to deliver an overwhelming number of personal stories highlighting the wealth of issues midwives face every week.

However, Clark was not at his electorate office, so the group stuck the personal messages to his windows.

"Dear David Clark, We stopped by to say hi today but you weren't there! Good thing we were able to print off all these messages to make sure you read them. Lots of love Midwives of Aotearoa #savethemidwives #DearDavidClark," they posted to Facebook.

Many of the highly emotional accounts highlight the growing issues of being overworked, underpaid, unappreciated and working in less-than-ideal conditions.

Many midwives are now reaching breaking point, which the page says is a humanitarian issue.

"I work 0 to 9 in an extremely busy, understaffed secondary hospital. I routinely cry on my drive home every morning," one midwife posted.

The midwives page responded to the worker's post, writing: "A job should NEVER place a midwife under this much strain, and steal their happiness. Hospital midwives are too overworked. This is a humanitarian issue."

Here are some of the accounts from midwives who say they are struggling to cope:

"Yesterday I saw 15 antenatal clients at clinic, 4 postnatal clients at their homes, received 16 phone calls and 22 texts from clients, had an 8-hour primip [first-time mother] labour, then a 4-hour multip labour. It is only Tuesday and I've already worked more than 24 hours."

"I am a new graduate midwife who has worked a full month without time off, looking after 36 women. Due to poor payment structuring, I have not received a single payment during this time."

"This week I was called out in the night three times (an unwell woman, a baby not moving, a baby not feeding" - and none of these times for a labour. I travelled a two-hour round trip each time. I get no extra pay for these assessments. I worked 72 hours and earned $7.80 an hour.

"I once had 5 labours in a week, 2 involving a 3-hour round trip transfer. I was covering for my midwifery partner so she could have a break. I was so exhausted I came home went to bed, got up to be sick and passed out on the toilet hitting my head. I was also 26 weeks pregnant. I was burnt out. I feel I can no longer work as an LMC. I love the work, but I love my family more and need to be here for them."

"I worked 14 hours looking after a very complex labour as there were not enough hospital staff/ I wet myself after waiting three hours for a bathroom break."

"I work in the hospital. I once did a double shift, from 3pm until 7.30am because there was not enough staff. I was later told that if an error had occurred the DHB would not have covered me for working over 15 hours, however they were more than happy at the time for me to work."

"I want to be a midwife in NZ, but have been offered a job in Australia for AUD$94,000, free rent, a car, salary sacrifice, super, $4500 relocation allowance, and a 37.5 hour work week."

The Dear David, Aotearoa Needs Midwives page is encouraging midwives, doctors, women, grandmothers, family members and ambulance drivers to tell their stories in order to submit their concerns to Clark.

"We want David Clark to understand fully the work that we do, who it benefits, and how essential it truly is. We need him to fight for primary maternity services to be adequately funded, as it is in the best interests of our Community and our nation to care for women and babies in a safe manner."

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