NEWS UPDATE JUNE 10TH:
Stay has been granted by the Hospital appeal board for the duration of the appeal process. (Details to follow as they have not yet been released.) Below is my original blog post on the appeal to the court.
Last Thursday I was in court all day, adding my support to midwife Joanne Daviau’s case against St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox, which had not renewed her hospital privileges with very short notice. Joanne was asking the court for a stay until she was able to put her case before the Hospital Appeal Board here in BC. A group of midwives and midwifery students were also present, as a support. We waited as other cases were heard.
Joanne’s lawyer informed us that we would be in another courtroom, so we all went up to the 7th floor, where the case was to be heard by Judge Madam Griffin. She asked astute and clarifying questions regarding the issues.
Joanne had received very short notice that her privileges were to be denied, and was concerned that this would mean the end of her developed 8 year practice in Comox, BC. It could take up to 90 days to bring an appeal to the Hospital Appeal Board, and being without hospital privileges during this time would mean a considerable gap in service to her clients.
Public interest is a big factor here. Women in her care would be compelled to seek a health care provider for reasons that have nothing to do with them. Midwifery has had a long battle to be included in the health care system, and now MSP covers a midwife-assisted birth.
Daviau’s lawyer, Jennifer Millbank, indicated that this particular dispute is extremely acrimonious. They claim that hospital allegations are not supported by facts, and that the rules and bylaws being applied were not sufficiently presented. It is seen as an issue of procedural fairness: what exactly is she being accused of?
The College of Midwives in BC was advised of a hospital complaint, with the serious allegation that Joanne was putting clients at risk. This was refuted by the College, who after investigation of the situation said that care was indeed up to standard and not in question.
Millbank outlined the timeline of this process, and asked only that the Hospital Board deal in a fair and evidence-based fashion, in order to present this case to the Hospital Appeal Board, particularly as the rules are not really known. She gave a thorough and lengthy presentation, outlining the history of the situation and indicating the issues that were at stake.
There is a community issue at the core of this situation, which has become extremely difficult. Joanne was accused of “disregard for hospital and community standards, and lack of collegiality.” Other midwives in the area have blocked communication and offer no local backup coverage for Ms. Daviau. It seems there is an unspoken “20 minute rule” – she cannot be 20 minutes away from the hospital at any time, and has no one to cover for her should this occur. In fact, Joanne was not able to attend court that day, as she cannot leave the area without backup.
In question was the issue that this was brought before the court rather than to the Hospital Appeal Board. The court really doesn’t have jurisdiction over this professional situation. However, there was little time to present this to the Hospital body on such short notice.
Concerns were brought up about lack of availability and collegiality in the hospital, and it was said that the hospital may be challenging the College’s decision as well.
As Justice Griffin pointed out – this lack of availability and lack of collegiality that is being discussed – is it hers or theirs?
A practical solution was proposed by Madam Justice Griffin, and the next day there was agreement that there would be a brief stay until the case could go before the Hospital Board and the Hospital Appeal Board.
To date, Joanne has put her request for a stay into the Hospital Appeals Board (provincial body). She will get the response from the hospital to the appeal in a day or two, then she responds, and they make a decision for the stay (hopefully) until going into the longer appeal process. The case is expensive and is certainly far from closed at this stage.
Joanne Daviau should be admired for not backing down in difficult circumstances, and remaining true to her clients and to her profession. Some of the midwives and midwifery students who lent their support to this situation as observers in court were Sherry McGillis, Vera Berard, Jennesse Oakhurst, Michelle Cameron, Tracey Simpson, Natasha Sara, Patti Thompson, and Adian Chow. (Apologies if I don’t have these names exactly right.) Also supporting were Soleil Dempsey (Joanne’s daughter) and Holly Johnson.
I later heard that Joanne Daviau’s lawyer, Jennifer Millbank, has had two births with midwives. In addition, one of the two lawyers representing St. Joseph’s Hospital is on the MPP.
I was saddened by this case as the fight for midwifery’s legalization in Canada has been long and difficult. It required tremendous loyalty and community among midwives despite personal differences and a very long timespan, to work together to have the profession acknowledged and finally accepted through the health care system. This is relatively recent work, and hard won. Canadian midwives like my friend Sandra Botting (who passed away in 1999) worked with such dedication for so many years to create the legalized profession as it exists today, against more difficult odds, for over 20 years.
I believe that midwives today should continue to support and strengthen one another in their profession, and in doing so they are supporting the still-fragile entity of Canadian legal midwifery itself (whether or not they get along personally with one another.) Whatever their differences, midwives should back each other up, be professional, and not isolate or separate any practitioner. The show of support from the midwives who came to court to hear Joanne’s case was especially meaningful for this reason.
(Photo thanks to Mari Patkelly’s site)