Māori midwives are too few and spread too thinly across the country to handle rising Māori birth rates, and say a workforce strategy is desperately needed.
Only 9 percent of all midwives are Māori, despite Māori babies making up more than 20 percent of those born every year.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) said in a statement to Radio NZ that its Maternity Action Plan had “specific actions” relating to increasing the Māori midwifery workforce, but did not say what those actions were.
The Midwifery Accord, spearheaded by MERAS, is tasked with developing a strategy to better support midwives in training, particularly Maori and Pasifika, and to developing a strategy for retention of the existing midwifery workforce, workforce development and succession planning, and the re-employment of those who have left the workforce.
Caroline Conroy, who is leading the Accord process for MERAS, says we are to report to the Minister of Health by the end of October 2019 so that agreed actions can be implemented. The timing is to ensure actions requiring additional funding are included in bids in time for next year’s Budget.
A $10 million fund over four years was part of this years’ Budget to provide wrap-around services for Māori health undergraduate students and Caroline says MERAS is working through the Accord to ensure these services meet the needs of Maori midwifery students.