‘Like a slow torture’: Death of newborn at Royal Columbian sparks calls for change in physician staffing

Click to play video: 'B.C. family demanding changes at RCH after baby’s death'
B.C. family demanding changes at RCH after baby’s death
WATCH: A heartbroken B.C. mother and father are demanding change after the tragic death of their newborn this past summer. As John Hua reports, they were scheduled to deliver their baby at Royal Columbian Hospital but what happened next was any expectant parent's worst nightmare – Nov 16, 2020

A heartbroken B.C. mother and father are demanding change after the tragic death of their newborn this past summer.

What happened at New Westminster’s Royal Columbian Hospital, they said, is a nightmare they will never fully recover from and they blame Fraser Health for some questionable staffing decisions.

Click to play video: 'Concern over Royal Columbian Hospital patient walkaways'
Concern over Royal Columbian Hospital patient walkaways

Sarah Castell said on Aug. 18, her planned induction at Royal Columbian Hospital soon turned into calls for an emergency C-section, but there was a delay in getting her into an operating room as both the obstetrician and anesthesiologist were tied up with other patients.

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“I had to watch my baby’s heart rate dropping on a monitor for an hour and 37 minutes,” Castell said. “It’s like a slow torture.”

“Seeing my baby coming out dead due to lack of oxygen is enough to be scarred for life,” father Milad Moezzi said.

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Medical staff resuscitated the newborn after 17 minutes. Tragically, Isla died nine days later.

“It’s not when we said goodbye to Isla at Canuck Place that keeps me awake at night,” Castell said. “It’s the trauma of that situation of being unable to get the help that we needed.”

Click to play video: 'New Women’s Hospital NICU will keep more mothers and babies together'
New Women’s Hospital NICU will keep more mothers and babies together

The parents have started an online petition demanding that the maternity unit has a dedicated anesthesiologist and a second on-site obstetrician as is the case at Surrey Memorial and BC Women’s Hospital.

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“We’ve been asking for a dedicated obstetric anesthesia program for over 10 years and that remains unfortunately unrealized,” Royal Columbian Hospital’s chief obstetrician Douglas Waterman said.

Waterman said his unit is still safe for expectant mothers, but this is an obvious oversight.

In a statement to Global News, Fraser Health expressed its condolences to the family.

The health authority said it cannot speak to the specifics of the case due to privacy concerns, but said Royal Columbian Hospital has “24-7 OB/GYN coverage with a second OB/GYN on call to support pregnant mothers as needed, including those who require a caesarian section.”

The statement did not address a question from Global News about whether Fraser Health would consider funding for a second full-time on-site obstretrician and dedicated anaesthesiologist for the maternity ward.

Fraser Health said it reached out to the family to hear their concerns, but Castell and Moezzi said they have not been contacted.

“It has been presented to you by top physicians in this area for the last decade and you have chosen not to fund it,” Castell said.

In the nine short days they got to know their daughter, Castell and Moezii say they learned Isla was a true fighter. Now they say they’ll fight in Isla’s name to help other parents avoid such a tragedy.

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“For nine days, 24/7, I was there because that’s all I had,” Moezzi said.


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