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Questions abound on midwifery program

Key players refuse to discuss debacle that's stranded students

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>The University College of the North is paying $177,000 a year to lease space at the University of Winnipeg specifically renovated for the midwifery program — which the program has not used for the past 27 months.</p>

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

The University College of the North is paying $177,000 a year to lease space at the University of Winnipeg specifically renovated for the midwifery program — which the program has not used for the past 27 months.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/7/2016 (975 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The province has been calling the shots on midwifery since at least late 2013 — that’s when it told the University of Manitoba and the University College of the North to create a joint midwifery program.

The province, through the now-defunct council on post-secondary education (COPSE), specifically told UCN not to enrol more students until the program was finalized. (COPSE’s job was to approve post-secondary programs and to allocate provincial funding to post-secondary schools; the government always insisted COPSE operated at arm’s-length from political direction.)

The U of M did not finalize approval of the joint program until January 2016 but 14 midwifery students nevertheless were enrolled at UCN in September 2015 — in a program that has produced only nine graduates since 2006.

Those 14 students are in limbo — there is no UCN program for them to continue their second year of midwifery studies in September.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/7/2016 (975 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The province has been calling the shots on midwifery since at least late 2013 — that’s when it told the University of Manitoba and the University College of the North to create a joint midwifery program.

The province, through the now-defunct council on post-secondary education (COPSE), specifically told UCN not to enrol more students until the program was finalized. (COPSE’s job was to approve post-secondary programs and to allocate provincial funding to post-secondary schools; the government always insisted COPSE operated at arm’s-length from political direction.)

The U of M did not finalize approval of the joint program until January 2016 but 14 midwifery students nevertheless were enrolled at UCN in September 2015 — in a program that has produced only nine graduates since 2006.

Those 14 students are in limbo — there is no UCN program for them to continue their second year of midwifery studies in September.

The midwifery program was to be a jewel in the crown of the NDP’s northern post-secondary education strategy — so far it has cost the province more than $8 million. Key players refused last week to divulge information that could sort out some of the confusion around the program and the 14 stranded students.

UCN officials said last week they will not discuss the subject further unless the Free Press files a formal freedom of information request, a process that can take months.

The NDP will not allow interviews with MLAs Greg Selinger and James Allum, who played crucial roles in the program’s creation as premier and education minister, respectively. Instead, the NDP said its education critic, Wab Kinew, who was first elected April 19, will address questions on the subject.

The new PC-led provincial government and the two schools have so far not released the pivotal communications in which COPSE ordered UCN and the U of M to create the joint program.

The U of M says such orders came down in November 2013 from the council, a body the NDP dissolved the next year and absorbed into the education minister’s office. Universities and government officials have so far not released the communications.

The U of M minutes say the council "instructed" the two schools to create the program. UCN’s previous statements say the council "advised" the two schools to do so.

To further add to the confusion, UCN had planned only its third intake of students in the fall of 2014, but COPSE ordered that incoming class cancelled.

Instead, the council told UCN to enrol a midwifery class in the fall of 2014 made up of practising health-care professionals. What happened to that group was not clear last week.

Presumably, COPSE and the NDP government would have been aware UCN was paying, and will pay until next March, $177,000 a year to lease space at the University of Winnipeg specifically renovated for the midwifery program — which it has not used for the past 27 months.

In addition, the council told the schools to report back by September 2015 with plans to implement the joint program the following year.

COPSE clearly told UCN, "That Council direct UCN to suspend intake into the current four-year midwifery program until such time as the program partnership with UM has been finalized."

But by September 2015, the council no longer existed, the minister’s office was running the show, and UCN had admitted the 14 students. It is still not clear which body or bodies were involved in that decision or why the 14 students started their studies before the joint program existed.

Everything was contingent on provincial funding of $844,000 a year in new money.

The previous NDP government, which had championed the joint program, did not provide the additional money before losing the April 19 election, and the Progressive Conservatives did not put the money in their first budget — reasoning the government and schools needed to get the program operating properly for those 14 students before any expansion.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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