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Pay rise may lift midwife stocks

A 15 per cent pay boost and lump sum payment recently announced for 1150 midwives employed nationally by Te Whatu Ora [TWO], includes the 23 midwives employed at Wairarapa Hospital.

Midwifery Employee Representation and Advisory Service Wairarapa representative Fiona Girdwood said the recent increase came as welcome news to local midwives, who “are pleased to see some outcome from the pay equity process, as it has taken five years to get to this point”.

However, Girdwood said the low numbers of practising midwives is still impacting the sector.

“There is frustration that there are still some outstanding matters to reach agreement on at a time when there is such a significant midwifery workforce shortage.”

Last year the Times-Age reported that TWO had confirmed Wairarapa Hospital’s maternity ward staff had been picking up extra shifts for the previous six months due to staff shortages.

Meanwhile the health agency’s Health Workforce Plan for 2023-24 estimates there is still a nationwide shortage of 1050 midwives, or 40 per cent.

“Hopefully this pay increase will help retain midwives in New Zealand, make it a bit easier for us to attract midwives to Wairarapa, and encourage local people to consider midwifery as a career,” Girdwood said.

Jessie Ellingham, a former St Matthews pupil and current third-year midwifery student in Wellington, said going into the sector had been a no-brainer career choice for her and that it is an incredibly rewarding job.

However, the sector shortage has had a huge impact on her student experience.

“There’s a lot of pressure on students to fill the gaps when a unit is short-staffed, which is just about every shift,” Ellingham said.

“Midwives are exhausted, and it’s hard to be a student in those environments, but the passion for the job is what keeps you going.”

While the pay increase was great news, Ellingham said it was just one of a whole host of issues that need to be addressed within the sector, including “extreme burnout” of health professionals and poor staffing levels.

Ellingham said that in 2021 her cohort began with about 40 students and has since dropped to 19, something she attributes to a lack of financial incentives or support.

“There is a high financial cost of being a student midwife,” Ellingham said.

“We are typically doing 40 hours a week of clinical placement, which doesn’t leave a lot of room to earn or save money at other jobs.”

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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