On March 31, 2023, the Association of Ontario Midwives (AOM) announced the ratification of a new one-year funding agreement with the Government of Ontario. The agreement provides an investment of $16 million to increase compensation and expand access to midwifery services in the province.
The funding agreement aims to increase patient-centred midwifery care, provide easier and faster access to midwifery services, and ensure culturally safe care for Indigenous families without the need to travel long distances. This partnership between the Ontario government and AOM is expected to benefit growing families and midwives alike.
Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, highlighted the immense impact of midwives on the lives of parents and their newborns, expressing her pleasure in this step toward a stronger partnership. The funding agreement reflects more than $16 million for compensation and enhanced midwifery services. This includes a one percent compensation increase for all midwives in Ontario as of April 1, 2023, increased operational funding to support rising rent, overhead, and supplies costs, and funding for better clinical equipment and birth kits. The agreement also includes funding to offset travel costs for midwives who travel across communities 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and to integrate and upgrade IT systems to provide more efficient digital health and data safety.
The agreement also supports Indigenous-led midwifery care in First Nations, urban, and rural communities. Indigenous midwives provide important culturally safe prenatal, intrapartum, and post-partum care, as well as traditional healing programs and ceremonies.
The government’s recognition of midwives’ important role in the public health care system is commendable. However, there is still a need for equality, as the compensation increase of one percent for all midwives in Ontario as of April 1, 2023, is nominal. In a landmark decision, the highest court in Ontario upheld the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario’s (HRTO) ruling against the Ontario government for discriminating against midwives and failing to address the gender wage gap.
The Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision released on June 13, 2022, supports the HRTO’s findings that the Ontario government’s undervaluation of midwifery work and its worth is due to its association with women and their caregiving duties. The court acknowledged that midwifery work, primarily performed by women, is undervalued when compared to the work of physicians, which has a history of being associated with men.
While the new funding agreement between the Ontario government and AOM is a step in the right direction, much work must be done to ensure equality for midwives in Ontario. The Ontario government must continue to support midwifery and address the gender wage gap in the province’s public health care system.