An expecting mother in B.C. said she’s disappointed and anxious after learning the hospital where she planned to give birth has closed its maternity ward indefinitely.
Sandra Morse’s first child, a boy, is due at the beginning of March and her carefully-prepared birth plan included labouring at her parents’ house and delivering at the Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock.
“The maternity ward people were so kind and caring and it’s such a peaceful and calm environment,” she said. “It’s very disappointing that I’m not going to be having my baby there.”
Effective Jan. 28, Fraser Health confirms the Peace Arch Hospital will shutter its maternity ward until it’s able to recruit a “full complement” of pediatricians to the facility. The closure was announced after an “unexpected leave,” and Fraser Health is asking all those who planned to give birth there to divert to the Langley Memorial Hospital.
Morse said she got to know the maternity ward staff at the Peace Arch Hospital after experiencing a complication with her pregnancy and was “shocked” to learn she would have to deliver elsewhere.
“I’m super concerned that if I’m at a hospital where my midwives don’t have privileges, I’m potentially going to be giving birth with somebody whose not familiar with the condition or the fact that I have it,” she told Global News.
“It’s just, again, another laying of stress on top of wanting my baby to be safe and healthy.”
Fraser Health deferred all requests for comment on this story to the B.C. Ministry of Health. In an emailed statement, the department said there are times, “for staffing and other reasons,” that hospitals must go on a temporary “maternity diversion” as part of their regular operating procedures.
Work is underway now to recruit additional pediatricians to the Peace Arch Hospital, it added.
“Both Fraser Health and the Ministry of Health recognize the desire to enhance maternity and pediatric services at Peace Arch Hospital. Fraser Health and the Ministry have been working with the pediatrician group at Peace Arch Hospital to implement a model to provide more stable pediatrician coverage for the community.”
In an interview, the head of the Peace Arch maternity clinic expressed concern that the diversion of patients to Langley Memorial Hospital — about 25 minutes’ drive from Peace Arch — would have a negative impact on patient care.
Dr. Semion Strovski said he first became aware of the closure decision about two weeks ago and is “very disappointed.”
“We serve more than 100,000 people that live in the area of White Rock, Surrey and Delta, and we feel this will significantly impact care for our young families,” he told Global News.
“The Langley physicians and Langley maternity will be faced with almost double the number of patients that they would have to be looking after and that certainly can compromise the safety.”
The Peace Arch Hospital delivers about 1,000 babies per year.
Strovski said he’s concerned about the additional driving time to Langley for expecting parents, and that a lack of awareness about the closure could result in pediatric patients or pregnant people showing up to an unprepared emergency room at the Peace Arch Hospital.
He’s also worried that a prolonged closure at the maternity ward could lead current staff to seek work elsewhere, in an effort to maintain their skills. For now, he added, Peace Arch maternity doctors will continue run a maternity clinic close to the hospital and the obstetricians and gynecologists will continue to provide their services at the hospital.
“I think only the midwives will be able to follow their patients,” said Strovski.
Morse, meanwhile, said she’s frustrated by the closure — symptomatic of a physician-recruitment affecting smaller communities across the country.
Strovski said the closure may have been prevented if the province and Fraser Health had acted on a swath of proposals to improve retention and recruitment of pediatricians at Peace Arch, including a new nursery, an observation unit in the emergency department, and a new rapid access clinic that could be combined with the maternity clinic.