Doug Ford's government has revoked current and future funding for the College of Midwives of Ontario, the regulatory body that oversees more than 900 midwives and has had government support for 25 years.
The halt in funding is retroactive to April 1, 2018, and includes almost $800,000 in operational grants for the College's current budget year, which made up one-third of its budget. The government informed the College on Nov. 8, eight months into the fiscal year.
In a joint statement, the College's president, Tiffany Haidon, and its registrar and CEO, Kelly Dobbin, wrote that the loss of funding will place a heavy financial burden on the profession in future years, even though a contingency plan is in place "to ensure that the impact of these changes on members is minimal."
The statement said the changes will have no impact on the public. "We cannot cut our services and programs, as the College's work is mandated by our governing legislation," it said.
"For 25 years, the College has reliably received annual grants from the Ministry," their statement said. "We will operate with a deficit for the remainder of the 2018/19 fiscal year. We anticipate operating with a deficit until at least 2021."
"It is likely that midwives will have to pay more to the College on an annual basis," the College added. "This is not news we wanted to share."
The government did not state why they cut the funding or respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.
“The Ford government’s surprise elimination of all funding for the College of Midwives of Ontario is a huge step backward, and does nothing to help women, parents and babies,” said France Gélinas, the NDP’s health critic and the MPP for Nickel Belt. “The Ford government is demonstrating contempt for the profession. Mothers have a right to count on not only the support of a midwife, but also that their midwife has the backing of a professional regulatory body."
Midwives association 'deeply disappointed'
Midwives deliver 15 per cent of the babies born in Ontario, care for 12 to 14 per cent of pregnant women and are turning away clients because they can’t meet the demand, according to the Association of Ontario Midwives (AOM), which plays an advocacy and support role for midwives.
"The AOM is deeply disappointed by the Ministry of Health’s decision to terminate funding to the College of Midwives of Ontario," Elizabeth Brandeis, president of the AOM, told National Observer in an email. "This loss of funding will place an additional burden on midwives who must now support the work of the CMO through a likely increase in fees."
Brandeis explained that "midwifery is a highly gendered profession and like other female-dominated work, experiences a significant pay equity gap." The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario confirmed this in a landmark ruling in September, which found that midwives in the province have experienced gender-based discrimination in their relationship with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
In September 2018, the Ford government was told by the Tribunal to negotiate with midwives to end the pay equity gap. To date, the Ford Tories have refused to negotiate.
AOM representatives met with government officials on Thursday to express their concern about the funding cancellation and the heavy burden it will place on Ontario midwives.
"The College of Midwives of Ontario was previously the only government-funded regulatory college in Ontario," Brandeis said. "Government funding was an important equity measure for midwives as a small, female-dominated profession."
According to the College's 2017-2018 annual report, most of its revenue comes from membership fees. As of March 2018, the College had 910 registered midwives as paying members.
"Our relatively low membership numbers compared to other regulated health colleges mean that our revenue is not sufficient to meet our expenses," the College writes in its annual report. "In acknowledgment of this discrepancy, the Ministry provides funding annually to allow the College to fulfill its mandate of regulating midwifery in the public interest."
The College is presently regulating two midwife-led Ontario birth centres that are funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care. They serve clients in the Ottawa and Toronto regions.
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