The PEI Legislature is expected to vote on the Registered Health Professionals Act this month, which could open the door for midwifery care on PEI.
For Leslee Larsen, passing the legislation would be welcome news, as she owns a home in Little Sands but works as a midwife in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, as she is not able to practice in her home province.
Under current legislation, midwives can’t deliver babies or practice in any capacity without insurance or funding.
Ms Larsen grew up in Belfast and after attending UPEI she attended a four year midwifery program at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario.
After graduating in 2008, she continued to work in Ontario, always with the hope of returning to the Maritimes, which she did in 2015. She has been working full time at St Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish. With Nova Scotia regulations coming into effect in 2009, there are now nine registered midwives and 8,670 total births per year. Midwife births make up 2.9 per cent of the province’s total. This is still low compared to other provinces that have had the regulations for longer periods. Ontario brought in regulations in 1994 and now have 817 registered midwives with 139,989 births per year making up 15 per cent of the province’s total.
Ms Larsen has been watching the Island closely.
“I’ve been waiting to see. I had hoped PEI would have come along sooner. Right now, it’s only the Yukon and Prince Edward Island that don’t have a midwifery regulation in place. So every other province and territory have it; New Brunswick will be hiring midwives soon. Newfoundland has the regulation but they haven’t hired anyone yet,” Ms Larsen said.
While PEI is behind other provinces, she said it could work to their advantage as it would give a chance to see what has worked well in other provinces.
She said midwives do low-risk births and allowing them to do deliveries could help take some strain off the Island health care system.
“Financially, there is good research that shows midwives cost the health care system less. They do support the use of low intervention. We have a lot more women coming to us who choose to give birth without an epidural. We do support them if they want them, but because we can discharge them earlier there is cost-savings as well,” Ms Larsen said.
Ms Larsen said she knows of several people in the profession who would benefit from midwife regulations on the Island.
“I know there are other midwives out there waiting to come home to the maritimes. I’m not the only one by any means, but we end up going to work where we can until the opportunity is there to come home,” Ms Larsen said.
Women want to have a choice of care providers and want to have a choice of where they can have their baby, she explains.
“What women like about midwifery is continuity of care. The person who does their pre-natal care is the same person who is at their birth and then does six weeks post-partem,” Ms Larsen said.
Midwives also do a lot of education with expecting mothers, which lets them come to their own decisions about their care.
“It’s more personal. I think that’s the biggest thing, they like the longer appointments and they love the home visits and the personal aspect of coming to see them at their home afterwards when they have their baby,” Ms Larsen said.
Ms Larsen says that PEI does have the desire. BORN - PEI’s Midwife Advocacy Group has a Facebook page that is 700+ members strong. At one point they had put Ms Larsen’s contact info on their site but she had to ask it be removed as she was getting bombarded with questions she couldn’t legally answer.
“I was getting so many emails from women who had questions and wanted me to come over. I can’t give medical advice without it being regulated. I was just encouraging the women to follow up with government if they wanted to have a care provider there,” Ms Larsen said.
Ms Larsen’s hope is for regulations to be put in place and for funding to follow.
“So that we can get some practices up and running so the women would have a choice. It takes a little bit of time, there has to be funding and insurance for the midwives and then we can get services up and running for the women.”