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Expectant mothers face midwife shortage

Published: 31 May 2011 12:07 GMT+02:00

Der Spiegel magazine reported that 15 percent of midwives had in the last year given up core professional duties such as maternity care.

About 25 percent of Germany’s midwives are no longer working in maternity care, according to statistics from the country’s Association of Midwives.

Instead, many move into less risky and more lucrative fields such as offering yoga for pregnant women or courses in proper nutrition.

Midwives have been demonstrating in several cities including Berlin, Essen and Dresden, demanding higher pay. They say they want a 30 percent pay increase from Germany’s statutory insurance companies for many of their services.

Midwives receive around €224 ($322) for up to 11 hours' work helping to deliver a baby. Follow-up visits from mothers earn midwives €26, no matter how long the appointments last.

Britta Höpermann, manager of the Geburtshaus Hamburg told Der Spiegel that the self-employed midwives she used often worked 60 hour weeks that left them with a net pay of just €8 to €9 per hour.

The average taxable income of a self-employed midwife was just €14,000, Der Spiegel reported.

Meanwhile insurance premiums have been increasing. Katrin Rüter de Escobar of the German Insurance Association said the medical mistakes were more costly now, driving up premiums, even though midwives make no more mistakes now than in the past.

“It is not a broken vase, but a child. And that costs money," she said.

Edith Wolber of the Hamburg Midwives’ Association said she was in despair, despite many complaints to the federal government.

“The federal Health Minister has promised improvements, but nothing has happened," she said.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Roland Jopp, said progress was being made.

"We do a lot to accommodate the concerns," Jopp said.

Officials are working on a report about the situation to determine what to do next.

The Local/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

13:26 May 31, 2011 by DavidtheNorseman
If they aren't going to pay for midwives, the State will be paying for Hospital delivery which I highly doubt is less expensive...Personally, I think every child ought to be born in the Natural way - in a Hospital close to doctors and equipment that can deal with any of the 1000 things that can go critically wrong with time scales measured in seconds. No offense intended to midwives but when they cheerfully remind us that the human race survived for millenia with just midwives they conviently forget to mention the mortality rate for mothers and children....
14:28 May 31, 2011 by trash head
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
15:42 May 31, 2011 by Gretl
I agree with you DavidtheNorseman, but I might add birthing centers aways from general hospitals are safer for mother and child because of the chances of viral or bacterial contamination in a hospital are quite high. Swedish Hospital where I had 2 of my daughters had a birthing center in the hospital, but the operating rooms, and the personnel were isolated from the rest of the hospital. I certainly would be dead if my only option was a mid-wife.
16:15 May 31, 2011 by JRSofty
I am married to a German Midwife, and my feeling is that the insurance companies are trying to get rid of the profession. With the requirement that they pay premiums almost as high as a medical doctor's but then not providing them with the amount of money to match.
03:59 June 1, 2011 by DavidtheNorseman
@Gretl - I recall the Canadian hospital my first born was born in had that set up (though you could opt in to the full care in the actual Hospital or the Midwife care unit which had a hallway connection to the full Hospital in case things went wrong...we chose the full care from the start option and my wife and I never regreted it...there are an incredible number of incredibly complex problems possible many involving massive hemoraging: my wife says the miracle babies are the ones born with mother and child healthy :-) )

@JRSofty - I am sure it must be very frustrating. I wonder what the losses for the insurers are as a percentage for midwives vs doctors...people who lose children tend to be litiginous.
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