Government announcements today have been applauded by MERAS, the midwives’ union. However, Co-leader, Jill Ovens, is urging politicians not to stop there.
She says the 9.6% increase in the starting salary for Early Childhood Education (ECE) teachers is strong recognition of the vital importance of a child’s early years, as is the agreed 9.6% MERAS negotiated increase for the starting salary of DHB-employed midwives, which comes into effect on 1 August.
“Like teaching, midwifery is a profession that attracts women, and there is overwhelming evidence that women-dominated professions are undervalued. That is why there are pay equity processes underway for both DHB-employed midwives and community midwives,” Jill says.
MERAS also welcomes the Government’s announcement that there will be additional funding put into DHBs to address the backlog arising from Covid-19. However, the union sounds a word of warning that the additional funding, like the salary increases, will only make up some lost ground. More is needed to future proof our primary health service.
“MERAS is urging the Government to start prioritising women’s health, particularly maternity services, which have been neglected after years of underfunding. The Health Minister said today that he wants to see ‘greater equity in health outcomes’, and “a strong and sustainable public health system’. Well, you can’t have those things if you keep pushing women’s health down the priority funding list,” she says.
Ms Ovens says all maternity services must be urgently funded adequately. For example, there needs to be better support for new families, and funding to promote the importance of breastfeeding along with community breastfeeding initiatives.
“MERAS is calling for funding to be set aside in the Budget to upgrade long-neglected maternity facilities as well as ensuring we have publicly funded, fit-for-purpose primary birthing centres where needed. Some of these publicly funded facilities are far from the modern, attractive and comfortable places in which women should be able to have their babies,” says Jill.
MERAS is aware that the Heather Simpson review of health and disability services is due to be released, which may include an overhaul of DHBs.
“The union would like an evaluation of DHB contracted-out maternity services and facilities to be included in any proposed overhaul of the DHBs. This would include a review of the model of contracted-out primary maternity units to assess whether this is the best model for provision, or whether DHBs should step up and offer primary birthing units as part of their own operations.”
Jill Ovens says an example of how that could work is MidCentral DHB taking over management of the previously privately-owned Te Papaioea Birth Centre in Palmerston North in April.
Media – For further information contact: Jill Ovens 021 598 530 or Caroline Conroy 027 688 8372