Midwifery services in Yellowknife have been suspended, leaving Fort Smith the only community in the NWT with active midwives.
The decision to suspend Yellowknife’s midwifery program came as the only midwife in the city has been on extended sick leave.
The midwife will be retained in a different position within the Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority.
Meanwhile, the government of the Northwest Territories has promised to conduct a program review and create a strategy to expand midwifery programs across the territory before the 16th Legislative Assembly ends in September.
Health Minister Michael Miltenberger, who took over the position after the resignation of federal Conservative candidate Sandy Lee in March, could not say if Yellowknife will see its midwifery program reconstituted in the near future.
“There are extensive birthing services in Yellowknife,” Miltenberger said. “The community is well served.”
He reassured The Journal that Fort Smith’s midwifery program will continue as is.
“Fort Smith is the flagship of midwifery services in the NWT,” Miltenberger said. “In Fort Smith the case has been made. The program has proved its value.”
The midwifery program evaluation will serve as an advisory document for the incoming 17th Assembly, Miltenberger said.
Although he cautioned there is very little money for new program development in the current budget, the minister said his government has to look at the many communities across the territory with no birthing services at all to determine where future midwifery program expansion could be most effective.
In Fort Smith, the midwifery program has been shown to save the health authority considerable money on medivac costs.
Miltenberger said that women from Yellowknife who would like to birth with a midwife in Fort Smith would have to make arrangements privately.