Bay of Plenty midwives warn their profession has hit a "crisis point" as they join more than 1100 others in a nation-wide strike from hospitals tomorrow.
More than 100 Bay midwives will walk off the job for two weeks in two-hour work stoppages affecting Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupō and Whakatāne hospitals. The decision to strike was made on November 5 after negotiations between midwives and district health boards, which began last year, failed.
A Rotorua midwife, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said a lack of financial recognition was whittling down the profession.
"A midwife has to make autonomous decisions. If you make autonomous decisions as a nurse, you are called a nurse practitioner and paid accordingly.
"We need to be recognised as a profession in our own right.
"A lot are leaving. We are at a crisis point. It's not that we aren't good at our jobs but morale is very, very low. We can't keep young people in the role. They don't want to do it. There's no future."
The midwife said she was one of many who regularly went to Australia to work because "you're paid double".
"We don't want to leave our families but we have to. It's not right. We just want to be paid what we are worth."
The Midwifery Employee Representation and Advisory Service (Meras) stated district health board nurses started work as practitioners on an annual salary of $49,449 after completing a four-year degree, and most midwives earned up to $66,755 a year after this.
Tauranga community midwife Cara Kellett was not employed by the district health board but fully supported her many "tired" colleagues who were.
Kellett said the workload was such, she knew of district health board midwives working at all hours on call and on the rostered days off because things were "just getting busier and busier".
Meras co-leader Jill Ovens said urgent action was needed.
National Representatives Council chairwoman Kelly McConville said the strike vote reflected that midwives have been "working at crisis point for a long time now".
Eighty per cent of Meras members voted in a ballot earlier this month and of this, 90 per cent voted to strike.
Lakes District Health Board clinical midwife manager Corli Roodt and Bay of Plenty District Health Board midwife leader Kirsten Rance each said no patients would be turned away and each health board's priority was the safety of women and their children.
"To keep women and babies safe, we have agreed with the union for a number of midwives to be on site to provide care during the hours of the strike action. We also have more midwives on call as needed. Life preserving services are being agreed with the union to keep everyone safe during the strike action," Rance said.
Patients have been kept informed via the board's website, notices and texts.
Minister of Health David Clark said he was not part of the negotiations but no one wanted to see industrial action.
"There is still time to find a settlement and I encourage both sides to continue negotiations."