Midwife Joanne Daviau Appeals to Hospital Board and Hospital Appeal Board in BC


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.

Below is a photo of midwifery pioneer, Sandra Botting, centre, with Canadians at an international midwife conference in Kobe, Japan.

(Photo thanks to Mari Patkelly’s site)


23 thoughts on “Midwife Joanne Daviau Appeals to Hospital Board and Hospital Appeal Board in BC

  1. Joanne Daviau is a wonderful midwife! We really enjoyed having her help us birth our baby 10 years ago. That was our third home birth, so we have experience with many different midwives. Joanne is skilled and professional, in addition to being a lovely person to be around. It is birthing women who will suffer if Joanne is not allowed to deliver babies in hospitals. This lawsuit makes midwifery look bad. Isn’t it supposed to be all about women supporting women?

  2. Joanne is a phenomenal midwife! We had her for the birth of our daughter this February. She was always available and a fantastic support. I would probably have given up on breastfeeding if it weren’t for her patience and hours spent teaching us in the first 3 days postpartum. My support goes out to her!

  3. Wow!

    Let me start by saying that Joanne delivered our first two and is helping in preparation for the next. She also delivered my two nephews. She have given the best care possible in all cases. She is sensitive, intuitive, patient, available and most of all professional. I could go on with the accolades.

    Talk about the bully on the block! What is up with this. It kind of makes you understand how wars get started. Like minded people stuck on what? Insecurity? Territory? Power? Wouldn’t we all like to know.

    ‘Peace is not the absence of conflict…it is how you deal with it.’ So…having said that, I am trying to be peaceful about this and not be mean. I don’t get it though.

    Dominique McGrady, Comox, BC

  4. I am truly flabbergasted that Joanne would be up against these charges. She is a professional and accomplished midwife, and above all a wonderful person. Joanne assisted me in delivering my son 7 years ago, and it was one of the most positive and memorable experiences of my life. Her level of professionalism is such that we never thought twice about safety, and we always felt that we had fully informed consent on any decision to be made. Our home birth with Joanne included our family and friends and influenced others we know to access midwifery. This is a testament to the importance of practitioners like her. I am deeply saddened that she has to defend her reputation, and know that there will be much support for her from the many families who have had the same amazing experiences with her. Eight years after meeting her, we still consider her a part of our family.

  5. Pingback: Comox Midwife Situation in the News « CAROL SILL

  6. Joanne delivered my son this past April, and througout it all she was very professional. From day one her knowledge and caring personality made my entire pregnancy, labour and post delivery experience truly wonderful. She has always been there for me, any time of day, to answer any of my questions. Because of Joanne’s knowledge, and professionalism, my husband and I felt very safe and confident in her abilities, and had a stress free home birth. With no doubt in my mind I would want Joanne to deliver my second child. I wish more doctors had Joannes’s level of care and professionalism. I miss her as my health care provider and she has all my support!

  7. My reaction to this case and these accusations is probably as deep and close to home as if my immediate family were on the stand. Joanne delivered both of my children at St. Joe’s hospital and I have recommended her to every woman I know. She has amazed me so many times with her depth of knowledge, level of care, and professionalism that I can’t imagine having been without her. She went far above the call of duty to make herself accessible to me; though we live in Port Hardy, I didn’t feel isolated or distant at all.

  8. I had Joanne deliver my daughter this past January, I was 18 and having my first baby right away i new i was not going with a doctor so i looked on the internet for a midwife i contacted joanne and had a meeting with her i had never felt so comfortable with someone before and i new i wanted her to deliver my baby, she was there for me all the time and when my water broke just knowing she was there for me i was not scared and it was the best experience i ever had and i will be heart broken if i couldnt have her to deliver eny other babys i have.

  9. Joanne was our midwife for both of my labours. When I was in labour at home with my first daughter I remember Joanne coming into my bedroom and sitting by my side. She remained calm and present and didn’t interfere with my work labouring. She helped me feel that my body was doing exactly what it was made to do and that I had the strength to birth my beautiful baby girl into the world.

    My labour empowers me to this day. I know the incredible capacity of both my body and spirit. Joanne is an incredible midwife because of her humility. She knows when and how to be involved with birth and does not interfere otherwise. She understands and honors the strength and power of birth. She instills in us mothers a fierce knowing that we are the mothers of our children, that through our strength our children are born. As Joanne fights for the rights of families to birth their children according to their terms, we fight to raise our children according to our terms. Our battles are connected. Joanne shows us how to be courageous.

  10. I have been anxiously following the case in regard to midwife Joanne Daviau with deepening concern and frustration. As a mother of a 5 year old, a 2 year old and a 7 week old baby, most days I can’t even find the time to brush my teeth or eat lunch. But I will make time to write this letter, even if I have to type it with 4 fingers while breastfeeding. This world, where we are quicker to criticize than to praise, is not one I want to leave for my children. Let this letter be a small step towards change.

    I am a registered nurse and have worked in health care, in B.C., for the past 8 years. I have seen all levels of care giving. Joanne Daviau is unquestionably among the best. I have known Joanne for almost 6 years. She is my midwife of choice, guiding me through the birth of my 3 daughters, as well as supporting me through the difficulties of a miscarriage. As women, we are in a vulnerable sate when dealing with all the challenges and miracles of pregnancy, childbirth and care of a newborn. It can be difficult to find a professional caregiver who is not only responsive to our unique and individual needs, but who also follows a clear line of conduct as designated by our medical system, put in place for our safety. For me that person is Joanne. She has never faltered in offering me clear, educated advice. Not only is she knowledgeable and an expert in her field, but most importantly she is listens. She is available and patient, answering questions (night or day) and alleviating anxiety as if by magic. I strive to practice at her level of performance.

    Joanne Daviau has exemplified genuine caring and commitment to me, my best interests and those of my family. I count my blessings daily. One on them is that my children entered this world into Joanne’s competent and supportive hands. She was there for the 3 greatest moments of my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    I could say more but there are diapers that need changing, questions that need answering and a bright eyed baby girl that’s waiting patiently to be burped.

    For lack of a bigger word, I offer my humble thanks to Joanne.

  11. It is so upsetting to me to hear that our midwife, Joanne Daviau has been put through such an absurd trial. I have heard nothing but positive things from others who have had Joanne as a midwife and as for me, Joanne was my midwife for both of my pregnancies and I am so thankful to her for the amazing standard of care that my babies and I received from her. My visits with Joanne were something that I looked forward to, not only to hear the baby’s heart beat, but also because I enjoyed her warmth, her caring and her ability to answer every question and concern that I had. The strong trust that I have in Joanne’s ability as a midwife was especially important to me during the birth of my first child. Because he was premature I had to give birth to him at St. Josephs Hospital, which was not my original plan. Had she not been there I am sure that I would have felt more afraid, but the absolute trust that I had in her allowed me to be at ease knowing that I was taken care of and everything would be alright. Time and time again I hear about other women’s birth experiences that were not at all positive. These almost always take place in a hospital, which in itself is not the problem, the problem, in my mind is that the women don’t know who will be attending their birth. Will it be a warm and knowledgeable nurse that respects the woman’s thoughts and wishes, or will it be a nurse that bullies and makes the woman feel as if she needs to fight to have her wishes heard? It’s just the luck of the draw. With Joanne, I had established an understanding of the birth that I wanted to have and I knew that when the time came she would be there to guide me through the process.
    Just this past August I gave birth to my second child. This time, since we live on Hornby Island, we rented a house in Courtenay so that we could have a home birth. I truly wish every woman could have such a wonderful birthing experience! I had my family and friends there to support me and a wonderful midwife to make sure that my baby and I were well taken care of.
    The thought of anyone questioning Joanne’s professional judgment or her level of care is absolutely ludicrous. I just wish there were more people like Joanne to deliver the world’s babies!

  12. I have to say that I am absolutely furious to hear that such things are happening. In a day and age where hospitals are crying for docters, nurses and health care workers. That they would not make every effort possible to include a person that in my humble option has provided incredible quality, person to person care.

    Both my boys were born in St. Josephs with Joanne as my Midwife. My first labour was long and she was there with gentle guiding support for both me and my husband. My second she was unable to make it to, I was only in the birthing room for 8 minutes before my son was born. There was not even enough time for the nurses to get gloves on let alone get the Docter on call. She was there moments later!

    Both of my pregnancies she provided outstanding pre and post natal care. She was there for every phone call, every question and every worry. I plan on having one more child and I plan on having Joanne again, even if I have to deliver at home.

    It will be a sad day when women in the valley are denied the priveledge of her assisatance at this most incredible event.


  13. I am a grandmother of 3 now living in the Comox Valley in Canada in the year 2008. Hello out there. It is no shock that I am writing about the issue of midwife support on all levels from co-horts to care providers of every fashion. It was 30 years ago that we as women in the 70’s dreamed of health care for birthing in a way that only midwifery could provide. We fought pollitically, educationally and financially for every small step lest we forget. It was our own births, when women were put to sleep to have their babies and birthing considered an illness to overcome and not a miracle as it should be.
    On this note, I witnessed my first grandson being cared for by Joanne’s heart and wisdom and when it came time to deliver, I was there. What I witnessed, was everything that I dreamed of 30 years prior when I was having my babies. We have come a long way.
    You had better step back people and really look at what you are doing carefully. In this day and age you don’t want to go back in time because someone’s ( or something’s ) play for power or over juiced ego is getting in the way.
    Stand up and be counted. Joanne is the dream , thirty years in the making. Make it work!

  14. I am taken aback by these allegations! I chose Joanne to be my midwife 8 years ago in Comox. My preganancy, labour, delivery and post natal care were exemplary. Joanne was the third midwife I had after moving to Comox from Calgary. She was as professional, kind, caring and reassuring as any and all of the women I had been cared for on the teams of midwives at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary.
    Joanne is a lovely, kind, professional, sensible and reliable person. In the warm and caring relationship she has maintained with me throughout the years since my daughter’s birth, Joanne has only ever demonstrated herself to be a consumate professional.
    I can not understand the allegations against her? I can only assume that there must be some jealousy, hurt feelings or professional rivalry? at the root of it all.
    This seem to be petty and ridiculous charges and they reflect badly on those who bring them against Joanne!
    Jennifer Veale

  15. I wrote this letter to submit to http://supportjoanne.net/

    Joanne Daviau was the midwife who attended my son’s birth 8 years ago, July, 2000. At that time, my husband and I were living in the Comox Valley. She was always professional when dealing with our family and she always followed the provincial and hospital guidelines when monitoring my pregnancy, attending our birth, and following my son’s health in the weeks following his birth. She encouraged my husband and I to become familiar with the hospital birthing rooms, the maternity ward staff, and the events that may have necessitated us going to the hospital for the birth. She encouraged us to be open to the idea of a hospital birth and thus, we were mentally prepared for any eventuality during the birthing process.

    We had a text-book homebirth delivery with Joanne as the midwife in attendance. She cut short a family holiday in order to attend our birth (she took her pager with her) and this was at our request as we did not have confidence in the other mid-wife with whom she shared a practice. We trusted Joanne completely due to her professional approach, her attention to details, and her ability to listen and respond accordingly.

    Joanne is an excellent midwife who takes her role as a health care provider and a birthing professional seriously. It would be a shame to lose her expertise in the Comox Valley as good midwives are very hard to come by.

    We are shocked that this has even come up as an issue and we cannot believe that the motivation behind wanting to revoke Joanne’s privileges have anything to do with a 20-minute rule or a lack of collegiality on Joanne’s part. She is one of the most accommodating, agreeable, and caring individuals we have ever met and she is a true advocate for the birthing family, as per her role as midwife.

  16. Joanne is an amazing lady. She is incredibly kind, caring, professional and knowledgeable. She was available to me 100% of the time during my pregnancy and for weeks after. She had calming and knowledgeable advice at all hours of the night. Whenever I had a concern I knew Joanne was there for me.
    Even after being present for hundreds of births she made us feel like our new son Sam was the most precious thing alive.
    Our son was premature but with Joanne’s incredible guidance and advice we had no complications. She worked her magic and had Sam breastfeeding and gaining weight when the doctor thought he would have to go on formula to gain weight.
    When we have our second child we want Jaonne to be our support once again. I recommend Joanne to all my friends- We support Joanne all the way.

  17. Pingback: Midwife Support Site for Joanne Daviau « CAROL SILL

  18. I strongly believe St. Josephs Hospital would be making a sad mistake in revoking Joanne Daviaus privleges, for what seems like such a petty concern regarding location and timing.
    She is absolutly a tremendous midwife , a huge support and a very knowlegeable source for each one of her clients. I certainly felt comfortable and lucky to have her with me for both of my pregnancies and births. Joanne is a very professional, caring and wonderful women, her dedication is remarkable and I felt her services, both pre and post natal to be a huge asset. My experiences with Joanne are very dear to me and feel this to be a very essential part of the whole birthing process.
    To revoke her privleges for the stated reasons is just wrong, to rob others of such an amazing experience is terrible. I have recommended Joanne to several women and remain a huge supporter of her work. I hope to see her privleges fully re-instated and her services supported and respected by the hospital.

  19. I am greatly disheartened to hear that St Joseph’s Hospital is trying to revoke Joanne Daviau’s hospital privileges as a midwife.

    I have had two births in the ComoxValley: the first under a doctor’s care at St. Joseph’s Hospital and the second at home under the care of Joanne. The level of care between the two is not comparable. Joanne is greatly gifted in her ability to inform and care for the whole family during pregnancy, labour, delivery and postpartum, while empowering women and their families at all times.

    My family’s home birth under the care of Joanne was one of the most healing and joyous times of our lives. Joanne’s high standard of care never wavered. She was always available, dependable, professional and caring. My mother was present during the birth of my son at the hospital and the homebirth of my daughter. She said she wished all four of her children could have been born at home under the care of a midwife like Joanne.

    I sincerely hope Joanne’s hospital privileges are reinstated with a formal apology, as I truly wish that other women and their families will continue to benefit from the high level of care I was given. Our health care system has much to learn from professionals like Joanne.

  20. Joanne Daviau is a truly remarkable person. Loving, caring and sincere. She helped me with the birth of two of my three boys Kyle and Evan. They were both home births. The positive experence is something I will remember forever. Anyone who knows me has heard my birth stories more than once. I recommend to anyone having a baby to choose having a midwife and to choose Joanne Daviau! Joanne helped make the experience of childbirth feel like the most natural thing a women could experience. Though my first born Brennin was born in Hospital with a doctor and nurses help and that was a very beautiful experience. Nothing compares to the care and support before, during and after childbirth with the help from Midwife Joanne Daviau!

  21. With our respective backgrounds in Industrial Hygiene and Mental Health, my partner and I may well have been challenging clients for Joanne Daviau as we were acutely married to our research and birthing vision when we chose to engage her midwifery services in 2005.

    Admittedly, both my partner, and I have long been staunch supporters of natural birth, with firm commitments to birthing at home, with no intervention. Joanne was both a midwife to our physical birth process, as well as midwife to our education in valuing mainstream intervention, since, in the end result, we were forced to proceed with the birth of our daughter at St. Joseph’s hospital. Once there, we were pleasantly suprised to experience nothing, but excellent care from the nursing staff and doctors in addition to the top notch attention from our midwifery team.

    You, the reader, must try to understand, that we were reluctant ‘clients’ to the ‘wicked world of Hospital’ but found, through the intelligent and deeply attentive care of our midwife, Joanne, that a political and ethical rift simply did NOT exist between Midwifery practice and Mainstream Medicine. In fact, quite the opposite was apparent: Midwives and Obstetricians do coexist professionally, and work admirably side by side. We were witness, first hand, to this ‘mythical’ experience.

    We are eternally grateful for the proactive care and masterful discretion Joanne Daviau has extended us, let alone the opportunity to grow with respect to garnering a new understanding and appreciation for mainstream medicine and it’s place in our communities and lives.

    We would not have had the honour of this life lesson, had it not been for the very professional and intuitive, care of Joanne both pre and post birth. (Burn me for writing ‘professional’ and ‘intuitive’ side by side…)

    And speaking of Communities and Lives (capitalized with purpose,) lets end this witch hunt and permit
    Ms. Daviau to continue her excellent 21 year career (complete with accolades) in Midwifery. The Supreme Court doesn’t interpose in hospital disputes every day; there must be something quite unjust with St. Joseph’s attempt to remove her hospital privileges. Bullying does not, a professional, make. Bullying is unacceptable, on any level in our community. Do the right thing and gracefully release this remarkable woman to do the work she was born to do, and allow our community to thrive in harmony.

    Thank you for asking, our daughter is beautifully alive and healthy – thank YOU Joanne!

    Odette Warner

  22. Removing Joanne from St Joseph’s will have a detrimental effect on women’s choice in the area (including the North Island where we desperately need healthcare professionals). Joanne was my healthcare professional for my pregnancy and birth last year at St Joseph’s Hospital. She was professional, courteous, and most of all friendly. I
    would use her services again without question. As I was from out of town, she bent her schedule for me including some weekend visits. Shortly before my baby’s birth I was staying with family in Comox and we got snowed in. Joanne came to us for my prenatal checks. When I went
    to St Joseph’s in labour at 3 am, Joanne was there within 5 min. What I received was quality healthcare. Thank you Joanne.

  23. Joanne delivered our beautiful now 15yr old daughter. We lived in Vancouver at the time. Joanne is an amazingly professional woman. A kind human being! When we moved to the island, we travelled back to Vancouver for our second child. That should tell you something. It was because of “who she is”. Joanne thank you for your commitment to all of the women and families you have contributed your time and love to. Our support and love goes out to you and your family.

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