The Australian College of Midwives calls for solutions to the significant midwifery workforce shortage in Western Australia.
Midwives are highly trained primary maternity care providers for the pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. In public hospitals, care along the childbirth continuum should be provided exclusively by midwives but due to significant workforce shortages in Western Australia, midwifery positions on postnatal wards are often filled by nursing staff. Nurses are not clinically trained or professionally registered to provide midwifery care. This means women and their babies may not receive the care and support they need.
In addition, current safe patient ratios include only the mother and not their baby. This can create an unsafe environment as the midwife can have double the patients than the ratio allows for. Improved staffing levels factoring in both mothers and their babies, is recommended to ensure a thriving midwifery workforce into the future.
Solutions to short term challenges in Western Australia include:
• Retain experienced midwives by providing midwifery led models of care career pathways that are in line with evidence based best practice; and
• Greater flexibility in contracted hours, shifts and shift length to improve workforce retention.
• Provide greater incentives for midwives to relocate to regional, rural and remote areas where midwives are most needed.
• Provide recently retired midwives with a pathway to mentor and support graduates and early career midwives.
• If required, utilise midwifery students as maternity care support staff in the hospital setting to alleviate staffing gaps and provide supplementary clinical experience.
ACM President, Professor Joanne Gray said, “The significant shortage of midwives in Western Australia commands our attention and requires a united response. It is vital that midwives are part of the discussion around workforce shortages in order to find solutions that are long term and sustainable”.