Lorraine Michael questions who pays for programs, length of startup time
Health Minister Susan Sullivan was unequivocal when she spoke to The Telegram this week that midwifery will most definitely be publicly funded through the health care system, and it probably won’t take seven years to make it happen.
Susan Sullivan. — Telegram file photo
When Sullivan made the announcement in late February that the province would be taking the first steps towards regulating midwifery and building it into the public system, she made it very clear that it would be a publicly funded service offered through the health care system.
But that didn’t stop NDP Leader Lorraine Michael from raising the alarm that the provincial government might be moving towards a private system.
“I’m actually quite disturbed by the point that’s made at the end of the email,” Michael said.
“Right now the delivery of babies is part of our health care system — and it should be part of our health care system.”
Michael was reacting to one of the very last lines in the provincial government’s news release — one of the “quick facts” tacked on at the end.
“Once regulated, midwifery will be available to the public as a service paid for by the client or through employee and private insurance companies,” the release said.
Michael took that to mean that unlike residents of just about every other province in the country, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians would have to pay out of their own pocket for midwife services.
Sullivan said that’s not the case.
“That would be the outside day in terms of, you know, when we would expect to be up to full speed in terms of offering the practice of midwifery through the public sector,” she said.
“Absolutely. That has always been our commitment, right from when we first started to engage in this discussion.”
Beyond the public versus private issue, Michael is also unhappy that the government’s report said it will take five to seven years to fully implement a midwifery program.
“My question is why? Why? Because it’s something that we need, it’s something they have in other provinces,” Michael said. “I’m getting tired of saying that about things, but it’s true. It’s something they have in other provinces. They’re not starting from a blank page.”
But on that point, too, Sullivan said things aren’t quite as dire as Michael is making them out to be.
It may be quite a few years before the midwifery system is fully established, but it won’t all happen overnight.
“We certainly have to have the regulations in place that look at the training and the qualifications and so on,’ Sullivan said.
“Once we start getting that in place, then I would suggest that we could see a phased-in system where we’d look at the number of sites where we might be able to begin, and so on.”