Taranaki hospital midwives are going on strike on Tuesday for better pay and safer staffing

Midwives at Taranaki Base Hospital are going on strike on Tuesday for more money and safer staffing.

Simon O’Connor/Stuff

Midwives at Taranaki Base Hospital are going on strike on Tuesday for more money and safer staffing.

Taranaki hospital midwives will join a nationwide strike for better pay and conditions on Tuesday .

The Midwifery Employee Representation and Advisory Service (MERAS) said the 11am-7pm strike is not just about money but safer staffing levels.

Only hospital midwives, called core midwives, will be taking action, said Taranaki District Health Board (TDHB) clinical midwife co-ordinator and union delegate Rachel Way.

They were offered a lump sum of $1300, not $13,000 as Minister Andrew Little said on TV, and with no back pay.

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‘’With inflation it should be about $2500. We also wanted our night penal rate improved.

“And that didn’t happen. And we wanted safe staffing, which they committed to in 2018 at our last wage negotiations and that hasn’t happened either.’’

According to Taranaki DHB figures, there were 1233 births between July 2020 and May 2021, with 143 in May.

‘’It’s an acute area. We have a lot of walk ins, and we have a lot of emergencies. The days are full on. It’s hectic,’’ Way said.

There is a safe staffing system in place, but there are not enough staff on the floor for the workload, so it is in deficit, she added.

Midwives are ‘’fearful of coming to work not knowing what we are going to encounter. Most staff have got some kind of anxiety about coming to work and the sick rate is through the roof.’’

The union is planning to march on Parliament on Thursday.

The Government is not doing anything to help, Way said.

‘’We’re really in crisis, and we have been for a few years. We’re filling in the gaps on our days off, and it’s not sustainable.

‘’We don’t have any other staff to roster on. They don’t exist. There’s a worldwide shortage of midwives, so we can’t even poach from other countries.’’

A solution would be to heavily subsidise midwifery study, she said. It is an expensive degree, but midwives’ earnings start at about $58,000 if they work full time, which most do not due to shift work.

The union also asked for a bond, so new staff could be persuaded to stay, because there was such a high staff turnover.

‘’And they didn’t accept that either.

‘’It’s a great job. Most midwives love what we do, but we can’t sustain working at 120 per cent.’’

The union has said very few midwives will be able to walk off the job.

About 95 per cent of midwives will be required to provide life-preserving services throughout strike. action.

The TDHB said it had contingency plans in place.

Taranaki midwives will be holding a rally at 11.15am on the corner of Rogan St and Coronation Ave, opposite the New Plymouth Boys High School, at 11:15 am.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation has also announced nurses will stop work for eight hours on August 19 as negotiations to improve patient safety in hospitals have broken down.

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