Midwives depart, suspending prenatal services in Rankin Inlet
Expectant mothers must now travel to Iqaluit or Winnipeg, says Nunavut government
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.