Ulster Unionist MLA Michael McGimpsey has accused the Health Department of needlessly drifting into yet another workforce crisis. The former Health Minister was speaking after the Royal College of Midwives launched a report which warned that Northern Ireland will soon be facing a shortage of midwives unless urgent action is taken.
Michael McGimpsey said:
“Midwives are the absolute pillar of our local maternity system. They are becoming increasingly important to women and their babies in ensuring that they receive a continuum of care during pregnancy, childbirth, and in the important days and weeks after birth.
“In 2010 I launched a regional strategy for Nursing and Midwifery entitled ‘A Partnership for Care’. This was developed in consultation with nurses and midwives, and set out the priorities for nursing and midwifery over the following five years. Whilst the strategy has been successful, it is now apparent that the Department and respective Health Ministers from 2011 have rested on its laurels.
“It is totally unacceptable that the current situation has been allowed to develop. It is not just our midwifery workforce that is facing serious pressures. For every year Northern Ireland goes without training adequate numbers of GPs we are only heading for a deeper crisis in primary care. Repeated warnings on workforce issues have been ignored in recent years and this has contributed to the plummeting morale amongst our health workers, causing many to consider taking further industrial action.
“It would be wholly unacceptable if our midwives were forced into a position of not being able to provide the highest quality of maternity care simply because they are so short-staffed. A staffing shortfall would represent basic incompetence at the highest level in the Department.”