Midwives depart, suspending prenatal services in Rankin Inlet

Expectant mothers must now travel to Iqaluit or Winnipeg, says Nunavut government

A wall hanging decorates the hallway outside the birthing room at the Kivalliq Health Centre in Rankin Inlet, where midwives deliver over 50 babies every year. (Photo by Sarah Rogers)

By Sarah Rogers

Prenatal care and birthing services for expectant mothers in the Kivalliq region have been “temporarily suspended” due to staffing shortages, says the Government of Nunavut.

Until further notice, the birthing centre based in Rankin Inlet remains closed, the GN said in a news release on Tuesday, Aug. 4.

For now, that means pregnant women in the Kivalliq will be assessed and sent to either Iqaluit or Winnipeg to deliver, depending on their needs and their home community.

Rankin Inlet’s birthing centre, the oldest in the territory, usually employs four midwives, who deliver more than 50 infants a year.

Sources in the community told Nunatsiaq News that the midwives collectively quit their positions last month in response to a dispute with the executive director of health operations for the Kivalliq region.

At least two of the midwives are local Inuit midwives who have worked at the centre for several years.

The midwives declined to comment, instead directing Nunatsiaq News to the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives, which did not respond to a request by deadline.

Nunavut’s Department of Health said there will be additional physician resources at the Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit to help provide prenatal care for expectant mothers in Rankin Inlet.

“The Department of Health is committed to providing midwifery and maternal/newborn health services in Nunavut and is currently reviewing options for the recruitment and retention of midwives to resume birthing services as soon as possible,” the GN said in an Aug. 4 release.

Expectant parents in Rankin Inlet say they are already concerned about delayed medical appointments and ultrasounds. One parent said the birthing centre has not yet been able to transfer its patient files out to the appropriate care providers.

Families say they are worried about what the closure means for their care, and contend that the departure of Inuit health care professionals is a major loss for the community.

“As a pregnant community member of Rankin Inlet, it saddens me to know we have lost our long-standing Inuit midwives in the past 7 months,” said one local parent, who did not want to be named. “How did we get here? How did we just all of a sudden lose our midwives?

“I think it’s so important to have services available that are truly culturally relevant and available in Inuktitut if women so choose,” the parent said. “Midwifery has benefited me so much, during a time when your anxiety levels are up and all you want to know is if your baby is okay.”

If you live in Rankin Inlet, your pregnancy is automatically followed by a midwife, while women in other Kivalliq communities have the choice to be seen by a midwife or a doctor.

The GN’s most recent numbers suggest that Rankin Inlet midwives provide prenatal care for about 90 women a year; in 2014, they had been delivering an average of 50 babies a year over the preceding five years.

That’s compared to about 200 Kivalliq women annually who deliver their babies in Winnipeg.

Midwives typically follow their clients at Rankin Inlet’s public health and wellness centre, although the centre’s birthing rooms are housed up the road at the Kivalliq Health Centre. That’s also where doctors perform ultrasounds on pregnant women.

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by Frodo on

    It’s really too bad there aren’t more local people trained to be mid-wives. I don’t know what the aversion to a career like this is? Are there not enough training opportunities? Not enough drive among people? I don’t know but this really doesn’t need to be happening.

    • Posted by Just Saying on

      Government is the problem.
      There are still quite a few traitionally trained midwives in Nunavut, but the government won’t let them work. You can only work legally as a midwife if you do the southern training and do it the southern way.
      Listen up, MLAs.
      When your grandmother was born there were no southern doctors and no southern midwives in Nunavut.
      But somehow, your grandmother came into this world.
      Chidbirth used to only involve midwives and pregnant women, forever.

      • Posted by Childhood Death for All? on

        So, would you like to return to the childbirth death rates of those times?

        Surely you’d be the first to volunteer your pregnant wife, sister, or daughter for such treatment?

        While we’re at it, let’s close down the health centres and return to shamans.

      • Posted by Rankinmiut on

        The two permanent Inuk midwives were graduates of a formal program up to par with the rest of Canada and wrote and passed the Canadian National exam for midwives and were registered in Nunavut. They were licensed and could work anywhere in Canada. Their training had modules with elder midwives throughout.

        Yes, this is something the GN should answer the concerned expectant mothers for sure

      • Posted by Martha Aitkin on

        I worked as a midwife in Rankin Inlet for many years. In my experience the birthing families wanted to know that they were receiving a similar standard of care as southern birthing families. Receiving this care from their own Inuit midwives was ideal. The same education program that prepared those Inuit women to practice in this modern world needs to be resumed and keep being funded to graduate many Inuit Midwives.

  2. Posted by Rankinmiut on

    What they are not getting correct is that they did not quit collectively. It was about a half a year apart

    What boggles my mind is this. Why did they just allow the midwives to resign? Did they not value the only two INUK PERMANENT midwives? Maybe the health department needs to be asked why they resigned

    They can’t have expected the casuals who come and go with no cultural training to take over. That blows my mind

    Where did health go wrong? I would like to know. Pride? Southern mind set? Lack of value in their culture, on our very own Inuit homeland?

    They come from the south with their own agendas and southern mind sets with no commitment to stay and sustain the birthing centre all the while being dismissive to the Inuit culture and way of life. The very patients they are going to be supposed to be working for are majority Inuit

    • Posted by Depths of misery on

      The never ending complaining that goes on about the south certainly gets tired. Yet we all complain that the south doesn’t do enough for us, while we throw our collective misery right back at them. Do you really wonder why people don’t want to stick it out for too long?

      • Posted by Rankinmiut on

        Let’s be real though. The midwives were there almost 20 years, the only two original hires from the midwifery program when it was piloted in Rankin. Where are the rest? The lady who managed the program, passed away, sadly.

        How many directors / managers / revolving door of midwives / transient workers that make changes / policy changes who never see the full actual result of their decisions from start to finish because they don’t stay long, do you think they have gone through in their time? And then they are the ones that live with the changes someone else has made who does not see the end result / reprucussions and or consequences of the transient people. Must be infuriating and maddening

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