When it comes to prenatal, postnatal and reproductive health, it is not always easy for marginalized members of the community to access the care they need.
That’s why three local midwives started the rapidly growing Community Access Midwifery Program (CAMP).
“We identified that there is a huge divide in this community. There are currently no programs, specifically prenatal or pregnancy specific, for the racialized population and newcomers,” said one of the midwives, Isomi Henry.
It was started about a year and a half ago by Henry, Emily Stewart-Wilson and Rebecca Carson – all of whom are affiliated with Family Midwifery Care, and the program has since “exploded”.
So far, they have helped over 50 patients from marginalized groups in Guelph, including newcomers, racialized people, people experiencing poverty or homelessness, and people with addictions and mental health issues. .
But the demand is so high that they receive more referrals than they can follow.
In response, they recently partnered with Guelph Community Health (GCH) to expand the program, submitting a joint application for an expanded model of midwifery care through the Department of Health.
If approved, they will have funding for four full-time midwives to run CAMP from GCH.
“Because currently the three of us are still working under family midwifery care,” she said.
The expansion would increase their reach “more than fourfold”, as at present they mainly provide acute emergency care.
“What we want to move towards is more preventative health care,” she said, for things like sexual health and contraceptive advice.
“We started (a) postpartum group, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg with the mental health and isolation that newcomers and people are facing now with the pandemic. There are so many things we can do that we don’t have time for right now.
In some cases, the patients they work with have received no antenatal care throughout their pregnancy.
“It’s happened many times, and we’re witnessing them at birth,” she said. “And because of the complex life, sometimes people leave right away and then don’t want care afterwards, or maybe we’ll see them another time to make sure their (postnatal) bleeding is appropriate or that they have basic needs like clean underwear and sanitary napkins and painkillers.
This type of sporadic care is different from what midwives typically provide.
In Ontario, midwives work under a “Basic Care Course,” or BCC, which means they provide care during pregnancy and labor, as well as postnatal care for six to eight weeks.
While she said routine care “is a great model, it really works for specific people, who know they’re pregnant right away, have access to resources, and can call us when they know they’re pregnant.” ‘they’re five or six weeks pregnant – because if they’re not, you fill up pretty quickly.
But the CAMP program provides episodic care, with no commitment required. Patients can have a single appointment, or several, it is their choice, and all costs are borne by the Ministry of Health.
Patients do not need to be registered with a clinic to access CAMP services; community service providers or the patient can contact CAMP directly to access services.
The services they offer include pregnancy testing, STI screening, miscarriage care, pregnancy checkups, postpartum care, home baby checkups, and pregnancy termination.
“Through this program, we have the luxury of being able to provide (episodic) care and wherever they want. Often they have had negative experiences with the wider healthcare system, so they are very reluctant to go to the hospital (or) unable to book a clinic appointment due to their lifestyle.
This means they have the flexibility to meet patients wherever they want, wherever they feel safest, such as in a shelter, health center, sometimes even in parks or other community spaces.
She hopes they will hear back by spring 2023 on whether or not the program gets funding from the Department of Health to expand.
You can learn more about CAMP here.