The only university in B.C. training midwives will get more funding to nearly double its training spots.
The University of British Columbia will add 20 more training spots, for a total of 48, the province announced Friday (Feb. 17).
Twelve of the additional spots will open in UBC’s bachelor of midwifery program, which will now accept 32 students per year. Eight new seats will open up in the Internationally Educated Midwives Bridging Program, which will now train 16 students per year.
Post-Secondary Education Minister Selina Robinson joined Health Minister Adrian Dix and parliamentary secretary for rural health Jennifer Rice in making the announcement on UBC’s Vancouver Campus.
The province will put $1.7 million toward establishing the new spots, then continue to fund them with another $1.7 million per year starting this year.
Robinson said this funding will significantly increase midwife training and allow more students to pursue careers in the field, adding that the funding is part of the government’s promise to expand access to secondary education.
UBC’s midwifery program celebrated its 20th anniversary in late 2022.
Dix, who called UBC’s midwifery program an essential service as the only one of its kind in B.C., said the additional funding is part of the government’s plan to attract more people into the health-care workforce.
Rice said midwives are critical to meeting the needs of growing families in rural, remote and First Nations communities. The additional seats will ensure equitable access to maternity care across rural and remote regions of the province, she added.
Midwives have been a recognized health profession in B.C. since 1998.
They help deliver 27 per cent of babies born across B.C. and more in other regions, including Vancouver Island, where the rate is 35 per cent. Research also shows that midwives promise to reduce health care costs by reducing the need for surgery-assisted births. But the profession has also been dealing with high burn out rates and low pay, with B.C. midwives among the worst paid in all of Canada, according to a 2020 study.
Zoe Hodgson, clinical director of the Midwives Association of B.C. representing 400 midwives across the province, said these professionals are incredibly passionate about their career and go above and beyond what is needed to provide safe and good care.
“Because of that, the rate of burnout in our profession is very high,” she said, adding that COVID-19 has only made things worse.
“We need to work with government to make the profession more sustainable. We need to work with government to make the amount of money that midwives are able to bill, to make their salaries more sustainable.”
Costs for community practices must also be lower, she added.