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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Canada needs more midwives

By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun

Midwives alone can't fill the gap left by the growing shortage of baby doctors in Canada, says the president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada.

The necessity of having to be constantly on call day and night to deliver babies is a lifestyle issue that discourages people from becoming midwives -- just as it has family physicians, Dr. David Young of Halifax said.

"If you did a survey of midwives they would have difficulties with the same thing," he said. "Will they be any different from the family physicians and the obstetricians in terms of their desire to have some kind of lifestyle?"

Shared responsibility

Young said the solution lies in creating new obstetrical teams -- including doctors, nurses and midwives -- that can share responsibility for assisting at births. That would allow everyone to take some family and relaxation time at some point.

"We've got to be able to make all types of (baby delivery) more attractive to physicians, nurses and midwives," he said.

Young said one-third of family physicians and obstetrician-gynecologists delivered babies in the late 1980s, but that number had dropped to 19 per cent a decade later.

Midwives can play a role, he said, but there are only about 450 practising midwives in Canada. That compares to 30,000 in Britain where 70 per cent of babies are delivered by midwives.

The low number in Canada means it will be many years before there are enough midwives to fill the gap left by baby doctors, he said.

"We've got to do things to help family physicians continue to practise obstetrics . . . (and) we've got to support midwifery education and legislation that allows qualified midwives to practise."

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada has recently received a $2-million federal grant to study collaborative models of providing obstetrical care.

-- CP

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