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South Okanagan’s only midwife clinic closing

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February 21, 2021 - 11:57 AM

A midwives clinic in the South Okanagan will be closing its doors for good.

Aly Jones is the co-founder of Willow Community Midwives in Penticton and vice president of the Midwives Association of British Columbia.

She opened the practice in 2009, and it's currently the only midwives clinic in the South Okanagan.

READ MORE: Kamloops, Okanagan women face additional pregnancy challenges during the pandemic

While there is still strong demand, Jones said it was closing due to burnout during COVID-19, with the lack of provincial support for maternity care providers and the inability to fill positions as they are vacated.

There are fewer than 400 practicing midwives in B.C., and only four midwives at the clinic. When someone leaves due to sickness, there are too few to find a replacement.

Of those who currently work at the clinic,  one will move to a shared family clinic that works out of the Penticton Regional Hospital, which will be the only place left in the South Okanagan with midwives.

“We’re there the whole time, providing that continuing support as well as providing medical aspects as well. We focus on the whole family and adjusting to parenthood,” Jones said.

An online petition was started by Jaimee Peters, Feb. 19, asking the province to provide funding support for midwives in B.C.

“Midwives have been struggling with deficient government support for years, and now it is tragically affecting a huge community with Willow Community Midwives in Penticton being forced to close their doors due to a lack of midwives,” Peters wrote.

The petition is addressed to MLA Dan Ashton and MLA Roly Russell.

As of Feb. 20, the petition had put 1,200 signatures toward the 1,500 goal.

“It’s been quite painful for all of us involved and for the families who are very disappointed who are not being able to continue with their midwives, but I’m hopeful, I’m always very hopeful, that someone will come along and be able to restart things,” Jones said.

Sara Vrolyk, from Penticton, had midwives for the birth of her two sons in Nelson and Ontario, and a regular doctor for her third son in Penticton.

“The difference was between night and day,” she said. “The experience with a midwife was way better.”

With the birth of her second son, she said her midwives had more equipment available than the surrounding hospitals.


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