The International Day of the Midwife (IDM) was first launched by the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) in 1992, and annually May 5th is the internationally recognised day for highlighting the work of midwives across the world. Eighty two per cent of babies born in the Western Cape are birthed with the assistance of midwives.
The theme for this year’s celebration is ‘Midwives leading the way with quality care’. This highlights the vital role that midwives play not only in ensuring that women and their newborns navigate pregnancy and childbirth safely, but also that they receive respectful and well-resourced maternity care that can set them up for a lifetime of good health and well-being.
Skilled midwives are the difference between life and death for hundreds of thousands of women and infants every year. Yet there are massive midwife shortages around the world – with South Africa being no exception.
In terms of ‘leading the way with quality care’, a whole new training system for midwives is set to be put in motion in South Africa from January 2019. Sydney Grové, General Manager of Origin Family-Centred Maternity Hospital, who is a seasoned accoucheur (male midwife) and has attended at over 24 000 births, explains.
“From 1988 the South African Council of Nurses (SANC) decided on an integrated course of training, where trainee nurses all studied psychiatric, community health and midwifery nursing science for a period of 4 years. They would then complete a postgraduate one-year full-time course studying and practising midwifery as nursing sisters in order to become a midwife.
“Now, from 2019 trainees will complete their first 4 years of study in general nursing science (excluding psychiatric, community health and midwifery nursing science) to become registered nurses. After that they will have to complete another two years of study – in other words 6 years in all, or the same as it takes to become a doctor – in order to become a midwife. This will be a far more comprehensive course which will better prepare midwives to work in low-risk or even high-risk areas in collaboration with doctors, to be able to identify, diagnose and treat conditions in the obstetric model within their scope of practice.”
He adds: “The SANC is also in the process of developing a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) system in order to ensure that nurse practitioners stay up to date with the required competencies for their specific areas of practice. This is seen as a mechanism for practitioners to pursue and achieve professional growth throughout their careers, in order to benefit the people of South Africa. It is proposed that each midwife will have to accrue a minimum of 15 CPD points over a 12-month period in order to remain in practice, as is the case in developed countries like the United Kingdom, USA and Canada.
“I applaud these developments, which can do nothing but raise the standard of midwifery in South Africa. Midwives will become more and more important in the field of obstetrics in South Africa, because the obstetric litigation that has started to take off in South Africa – as it has around the world – has put doctors and nurses under immense pressure, which has diverted them to carry out ‘defensive nursing’, which takes them away from a primary focus on their clients.
“Once the CPD system is in place, Origin Family-Centred Maternity Hospital and the Grove De Beer Midwife Practice will play a preliminary role in providing training and mentoring in order to assist in uplifting the standards of midwife care in South Africa.
“The universal efforts of implementing a well-educated midwifery workforce in all the functioning health systems, by availing proper equipment and other supplies, has been estimated to prevent up to 60% of the maternal and child death rate throughout the world.”