Northern Ireland

A midwife speaks about why she has chosen to strike

Susan Andrew-Bruce
Image caption Susan Andrew-Bruce said midwives worked on average, three hours unpaid each week

Susan Andrew-Bruce is a delivery suite sister at Antrim Area Hospital. She told BBC News NI why she had decided to join her colleagues on strike on 30 April in a dispute over pay.

"Midwives have never taken action and the reason we're doing it in Northern Ireland now is because rest of UK have received a pay rise," she said.

"We don't want to work any longer for free. Midwives are worth their weight in gold, the women believe that, the women are behind us, but this strike action will not affect care that is required for women on the day."

A typical day could start at half past seven and midwives coming into work can find there are more women than there are labour wards.

"We could have seven delivery rooms, which we do have, and they could all be full and we have two theatres, they could also be in use," she said.

"We have the induction bay, that could be full and we have the planned and elective work that comes in on top of that in the mornings. You can end up going through the day with no breaks, no lunch, no dinner, no toilet trips.

"We're looking after two lives, we're looking after the mother and we're looking after the baby.

"We're professional people, we will not walk out on somebody just because our shift has finished and we will stay on and that in a sense has provided free work for the NHS.

"On average midwives will work up to three hours unpaid every week and this is the equivalent of the 1% pay rise that the midwives would like to see."

She said the situation facing midwives on a daily basis had become worse over time.

Image caption Mrs Andrew-Bruce said the long hours also took a personal toll on midwives

"The birth rate has been rising, there are a shortage of midwives, there are financial restraints within trusts," she said.

"Enough is enough and that is what the midwives are saying."

'Morale'

The long hours also take a personal toll on midwives.

"You are absolutely exhausted and most of us have families and you're coming home exhausted to do all those jobs at home and trying to get your batteries recharged before you go back on the next shift," she said.

"Morale is extremely low and midwives are at their lowest ebb, they have had enough."

She said midwives were determined to take a stand and receive the financial recognition afforded to their colleagues in the rest of the UK.

"Following the strike action on 30 April there will be action short of strike and this is where midwives will be claiming any overtime, they will take their breaks and financially that will all add up when those time sheets are handed in and the government sees exactly how much we have been giving them," she said.

In a statement the Department of Health said: "It's disappointing that RCM members have decided to take this action and officials will work with trusts to ensure a safe service is provided to mothers and babies during the planned stoppages."

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