Why short change midwives on whom next generation depends?

Members of the Royal College of Midwives protest outside the gates of the Royal Victoria Hospital
Members of the Royal College of Midwives protest outside the gates of the Royal Victoria Hospital

Maybe television’s One Born Every Minute gives viewers the wrong impression of the whole subject of birth.

In it we see how each mother-to-be now has a birthing plan and her own room where the whole process of waiting is akin to a party with partner and mother in attendance as well as a bevy of midwives happy in their work.

Sandra Chapman

Sandra Chapman

Obviously the whole birth procedure in hospitals is costing a lot more than it once did. But there is a crisis in midwifery and our politicians are going to have to get a handle on it sooner rather than later.

Next week on April 30, the province’s midwives will down tools for four hours and this is to be followed by other forms of industrial action in May. Pay, or rather the absence of a pay deal secured by midwives in England and Wales, is at the core of the problem for our local midwives.

In other parts of the UK midwives got a one per cent increase. It’s hardly a fortune but at least it’s an increase.

A programme such as One Born Every Minute allows us to see how detailed and complicated life can be for a midwife. Mistakes can be catastrophic. Every birth is different and a midwife has to have her wits about her at all times.

The growth in the birth rate has increased the pressure on midwives, yet there has been no significant increase in the numbers of midwives and, obviously, those on the job feel they are not been fairly remunerated.

In recent times two members of my wider family had extremely complicated births. Without the brilliance of the midwives involved the outcomes for the mothers could have been heart-breaking.

Our politicians, however, appear to have other more important things on their minds than the growing crisis in our maternity wards. Why, for example, should one of our Ministers be pushing his nationalistic agenda for a medium Irish school in Dungiven costing millions when the money would be much better spent ensuring that future Irish speaking children could come safely into the world in the first place?

This week a national newspaper, the Daily Mail, published the results of their investigations on how hospital bosses in mainland UK are ‘shamelessly milking the NHS’ by taking £35 million in pay rises during what they describe as the worst funding crisis in a generation.

The investigation revealed million pound salaries for top executives with some care directors ‘enjoying pay packages worth up to £5,000 a day’.

There was also an allegation of ‘exploitation of the NHS pension scheme by senior executives’. There was also the £10 monthly phone allowance for the boss who took home a pay package of £835,000.

Nearly 600 NHS bosses, it reported, got a pay packet worth more than the Prime Minister’s salary of £142,500 last year.

This largesse awarded to a considerable number of people is simply appalling given how broke the NHS is. This is public money being thrown around like confetti whilst the ones who labour daily in the wards hardly earn a living wage.

There is no suggestion that our own hospital bosses are spending resources enriching themselves at the expense of the workers. But something has gone wrong in the system. Our local hospitals are short of resources. Why? Midwives simply don’t walk out on a whim.

Our politicians should be looking more closely at how valuable NHS resources are spent. It simply isn’t good enough that our midwives feel so devalued and overworked that they feel striking is the only option open to them.

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives says there is still time for the NI Executive to come to the negotiating table to seek a solution.

At the very least they must ask the head of the hospital trusts how they’re spending the resources they do have.