The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on The Provision of Maternal Health Services in Nunavik, Quebec

Abstract

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Indigenous women in Canada experienced a two times higher rate of maternal mortality compared to non-Indigenous Canadian women. As the looming threat of COVID-19 resulted in cancellations of medical locums and understaffing at Nunavik’s hospital in Puvirnituq, Quebec, local midwifery services became even more indispensable. In light of the pandemic and its resulting travel restrictions, the Inukjuak midwifery centre opened its doors to at-risk women who refused to fly to Puvirnituq or Montreal for prenatal appointments and delivery. Now, the staff at the midwifery centre have resolved to expand the workforce of registered Inuit midwives to more communities in Nunavik so that all women can reliably access essential maternity services close to home. This 2,000 word reporting piece aims to explore the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the provision of maternal healthcare in Nunavik, where air travel underlies women’s access to most services, and will highlight the important work of Nunavik’s locally trained midwives. With intimate access to three midwifery centres in Nunavik, I have conducted semi-structured virtual interviews with physicians, midwives, and health care administrators working in health centres in Nunavik. Funded by the Pulitzer Centre on Crisis Reporting Student Fellowship and advised by photojournalist Sara Hylton, this piece will provide a first-hand glimpse at the impact of the pandemic on the health of women in northern Quebec. This story is currently being pitched to newspapers for publication this fall.

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McGill University is located on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. McGill honours, recognizes and respects these nations as the traditional stewards of the lands and waters on which peoples of the world now gather. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land.

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