Sunday, 21 October 2012

An open letter to Deb Matthews, Ontario Minister of Health

This past Friday marked two years since Ontario Midwives started negotiations for a new contract with the Ontario government. They started talks almost six months before their contract expired. The end date of the contract came and went at 11:59om March 31, 2011.
Did the midwives abruptly stop catching babies? No.
Did they transfer care of their clients? No.
Did they stop taking clients due after that day? No.
Have midwives, in fact, gone on to catch 25,000(!!!) babies and care for them and their mamas? Yes.
Have midwifes rallied to support refugee healthcare? Yes.
Have they faced obstacles and red tape when trying to gain practice privileges in hospitals across the province and yet continued to care for as many pregnant women as their limited numbers allow? Yes.
Have midwives rallied and successfully petitioned for birth centres in Ontario because that is what their clients need and want? Yes.
Have midwives saved the provincial government thousands of dollars in healthcare costs by supporting low risk births at home; supporting women and their families in successful breastfeeding; providing postpartum care to mothers and babies? All proven methods of health cost savings measures and long term positive effects? Yes.
Have midwives cut back the number of clients they accept or their 24-7 availability? No.
Have midwives changed their model of care to support more clients for more billable hours in order to manipulate the system? No!
Midwives in Ontario continue to provide care to women, newborns, and their families at the utmost professional level with knowledge, compassion, and integrity.
Midwives do not bring to the table the personal costs of their profession, their passion; but rather, they are asking for a fair and just evaluation of the work they do, the positive impact they have, and in politico speak: the effect they have on the bottom line!
On Friday, a social media campaign was launched to ask you, the Ontario Minister of Health to resume negotiations and come #backtothetable with @ontariomidwives. Photographs of babies born without a contract, pregnant bellies due without a contract, and midwifery students getting ready to enter the workforce without a contract were sent to the minister via twitter. Over 140 retweets plus 130 original tweets were sent in addition to countless emails, Facebook messages, and the viewing of a photo gallery video peaked at over 1000 by the end of the weekend.
And your response, which can only be interpreted as trite at best, passive-aggressive at worst, was a tweet sent late Sunday saying "Thx 4 tweets.Midwifery is catching.Birthing centres and even more midwives providing care to moms, dads, and babes."
Really? Really? You (Deb Matthews) take two minutes to send a tweet that your PR team probably drafted and then resent because it promotes midwifery in some lame backhanded way and point out that birthing centres are coming? Did you even read ONE of the messages that was sent to you? I mean for pete's sake they were 140 characters or less!! And they all said more or less the same thing, which was, to reiterate: GET BACK TO THE TABLE and renegotiate the long expired contract for Ontario midwives. This is your domain is it not? Mr.McGuinty's resignation is not a factor here, because let's be honest Deb Matthews, you are not the Liberal party's next provincial leader. And if you were, perhaps having 500+ midwives, their clients, their partners, their clients' partners (and FYI, that's partners not just "dads"!), and families, and all of the current and hopeful midwifery students...having all of these people on your side because you managed to finalize a new contract, might be a good thing. I'm just spitballing here, but that seems like a significant number of people to have on your side, or the side of the Liberal party in general. Or, maybe you thought it was ok because those 25,000 babies born since the contract expired can't vote yet. But that's a pretty significant number of babies who won't be there to kiss for an election photo op!
Get back to the table Health Minister. You wouldn't work under uncertain conditions, our doctors, nurses, orderlies, and administrators don't. Ontario Midwives deserve the same amount of respect and compensation. Passion and dedication motivates midwives to work; please, show a modicum of both for your ministry of which midwives are an essential part.
Oh, and for the record, sending a tweet on a Sunday night isn't going to fly under the radar. Technology is odd like that, it's available 24-7. Much like midwives.


  1. Awesome ! I am a mother of an Ontario midwife and I know how hard she works as do her fellow midwives....time for your government indeed to pay respect to their profession. Thank you.

  2. Amen!!! This is a great post.

    I have written several messages to the Liberal party - one to Dalton McGuinty, and 2 (or three?) to Deb Matthews. I received NOTHING from Deb Matthews, and a completely not-on-topic response from Dalton McGuinty. I even sent him another note asking to please READ my email before responding about birth centres.

    I'm shocked and appalled that the provincial government seemed entirely not to care about the Back to the Table campaign.

  3. Hey, how timely. I just got this email today:

    "Thank you for your e-mail regarding the excellent care that you received from your midwives. The ministry was pleased to learn of your health care experience. Your email has been reviewed by ministry staff that provided the following information and I apologize for the delay in responding
    Please be assured that midwives are, in fact, working with a contract. The current midwifery agreements are still in force and midwives continue to be compensated for the provision of services.
    The ministry values the contribution that midwives make to the health care system and to the well-being of thousands of Ontario women and newborns. The ministry remains committed to supporting midwives in the provision of the highest standard of midwifery services.
    Again, thank you for your email and for the opportunity to respond to your concerns.

    M. MacPhail

    Correspondence Services

    Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care"

    Not quite sure how to respond ...

  4. Thanks for sharing Kim. I'm shocked really. I'm fairly certain midwives and the AOM have far better things to do, for example catching babies and expanding the reach if midwives throughout the community, then to waste it in a petition for something that already exists. I'm completely mystified by the inaccuracy

  5. As am I, Vanessa. I was completely at a loss for words. And more than a little concerned that perhaps they *really* don't get it ... but as your tweet from Deb Matthews suggests, it's not that they don't get it, it's that they really don't care.

    Thinking I might send it to the press ;)