The scope of midwives services has significantly expanded, a change that will benefit Cochrane, where hospital trips can be a 40-minute drive or more. Midwives in Alberta who complete additional training and are authorized by the College of Midwives will be allowed to prescribe, dispense and administer a broader range of prescription drugs, contraceptives and contraceptive devices in homes and clinics and in a hospital, benzodiazepines and narcotics. They will also be able to prescribe and administer vaccines, insert intrauterine contraceptive devices, provide prescription drugs to induce labour and use ultrasounds to determine fetal position. Midwives typically serve mothers with low-risk pregnancies with care starting during pregnancy and continuing after birth. The changes came with the final $18.1 million of the $49 million budget from 2016 for midwifery services. It will put Alberta midwifery care in line with other provinces and territories. “We want to provide Albertans with easier access to maternal and reproductive health services closer to home," said Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman. "I’m proud to see midwives playing a bigger role in primary health care as well as the journey toward parenthood.” In Cochrane, more and more expectant mothers and families have been turning towards midwife-assisted births at home to avoid giving birth hospitals which tends to be more cumbersome for rural women. In a study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, rural women are four times more likely to be transferred from one hospital to another compared to urban women – 2.5 per cent versus 0.6 per cent. Drives to Calgary hospitals from town can be 40 minutes or longer sometimes and ambulance wait times have been known to equal that. “We are so excited that this change to regulation will allow midwives to practise to a fuller scope," said Nicole Matheson, president of Midwifery Association of Alberta. "This will help increase access to primary care in rural, remote and underserved communities.” Alberta Health Services (AHS) said last year that it is unlikely Cochrane would gain a birthing centre any time soon. The province said this expansion in services and increased roles of midwives – 133 midwives practising in Alberta total – will specifically assist rural women. “This is a recognition of the important role midwives play in maternal and newborn care in our province. AHS is continuing to work with Alberta communities, providers and midwives to expand this service in communities across Alberta,” said Yiu. Those using midwife services will also decrease their chances of a longer hospital stay if admitted at all and are less likely to require medical interventions such as cesarean sections, according to an Alberta Government news release. According to the Alberta government, there has been a 30 per cent increase in midwife-assisted births in the province over the last two years.