Pregnant Canterbury mum 'frustrated' after midwife refuses Govt's vaccine mandate

Rebecca Moore
Source: 1News

A pregnant Canterbury mum says she was left in a "sort it out yourself" situation after her midwife said she'd likely leave her job because she refused to get vaccinated.

A pregnant woman being examined.

On October 11, the Government announced Covid-19 vaccinations would be made mandatory for significant parts of the health and education workforce in New Zealand.

The decision means high-risk workers in the health sector need to be fully vaccinated by December 1, and school and early learning staff in contact with children must be vaccinated by January 1.

The Government's decision resulted in a Canterbury woman, who did not want to be named, to receive an email from her midwife.

The email, seen by 1News, tells the expectant mum she was sorry but wanted freedom of choice.

However, the woman, who already has young children, said she was never referred to anyone else to provide her midwifery care.

"It's was a bit of a sort it out yourself situation," she told 1News.

"I feel for the ladies that would be further along in their pregnancy left with no one.

"You put a lot of trust into your midwife just to be dropped, it's pretty frustrating."

The woman said she did not want an unvaccinated midwife around her newborn, but was left worried about finding a new midwife with existing shortages in the workforce.

The woman tried six midwives who were not able to help, with some not even replying.

But, lucky, she has since found a midwife she's happy with.

The College of Midwives chief executive Alison Eddy told 1News, "the College is working with the Ministry of Health and DHBs (district health boards) to manage any potential shortfall, and wants to reassure women and their whānau that maternity services will continue to operate in all regions".

It comes after Eddy said in a public statement on October 17, that as health professionals, midwives recognise their privileged position of trust and responsibility to whānau throughout Aotearoa.

Therefore, Eddy said the college strongly supported and commended those midwives who have already taken up the vaccine, and urged those who haven't to take it up.

"Pregnancy and early parenting are times of celebration as whānau come together to welcome a new baby, but they are also times of higher vulnerability to the effects of Covid-19 – either if infected or by increased isolation while lockdowns are necessary," she said.

"Whilst the decision to be vaccinated is an individual one, choosing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 recognises our wider collective and professional responsibilities.

"The College strongly urges any midwives who have not yet been vaccinated against Covid -19 to take up the opportunity to do so as soon as possible."

However, Eddy told 1News the college had not collected any data on how many midwives in New Zealand had received the Covid-19 vaccine, therefore it was difficult to know how many individual midwives were choosing not to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

"In cases where midwives choose not to be vaccinated and can no longer provide midwifery care, their wider region may be affected by a further reduced workforce," Eddy said.

"The college would prefer that all currently practising midwives continue to provide their expertise and care to wāhine and pēpi throughout New Zealand, and extends an invitation to any vaccine-hesitant midwives to engage in conversation with the college’s advisory team, in order to answer their questions or address concerns.

"Our goal is to keep as many midwives in the workforce as possible."

Eddy urged any families in New Zealand concerned about the vaccination status of their midwives to talk with their midwife, and if they're not getting the jab to work with them to organise alternative care.

"Unfortunately, a small proportion of women and babies may not continue to be cared for by the midwife they have come to know in their maternity journey thus far, however we want to reassure whānau once again, that their safety is of the utmost priority and their care will not be compromised," she said.

Health Minister Andrew Little also acknowledged the already stretched workforce was a concern, but defended the Government's decision to mandate the Covid-19 vaccine for those workers.

In a statement, he told 1News requiring health workers to be vaccinated was not something the Government did lightly, but it was decided to keep babies and their families safe.

"Midwives are caring for some of the most vulnerable people in our community – very small babies and new mums," he said.

"You can be infected with the Delta variant of Covid-19 without experiencing any symptoms, so you don't know that you're spreading it to others. I don't believe any of us have the right to put babies at risk like that.

"So while we will be concerned if midwives leave their jobs, I think we have made the right decision in requiring them to be vaccinated, and I ask any considering leaving to please think again."

Little also cited overseas research which shows unvaccinated pregnant women were vulnerable to the virus.

He said the Ministry of Health was in talks with midwives about vaccination, and working with district health boards and the midwifery sector about ways to minimise the impact of this mandate on families when it comes to any shortage of midwives.

Send your news tips to Rebecca.Moore@tvnz.co.nz