The Hope Standard has received a copy of a letter sent to the BC Nurses Union (BCNU) that calls the impeding “maternity unit closure … a ‘Health Hazard’ as defined in the Public Health Act.”
Because of their standing in the medical community, the letter’s writer has asked to not be identified, however, they are a practitioner of maternal care in the Fraser Valley.
“This plan creates a safety risk for the women and babies and also requires staff to be put at professional risk,” the letter states.
After the closure was announced last week, Fraser Health maternity stakeholders and administrators met on Thursday (June 6) to discuss implementation.
In an email sent by local midwife, Amelia Doran, after that meeting, midwives in the eastern Fraser Valley were told to “think of the maternity unit as having a lock on the door when it comes to labour and birth … and that all antenatal assessments are to be done at (Abbotsford Regional Hospital)” by emergency doctors and a maternity nurse.
But, as the letter to the BCNU notes, requiring “untrained and unskilled medical staff to manage and provide care (that) is outside of their scope of practice and to not allow any planned assessments or maternity-related triaging creates a significant health hazard or all pregnant women located in (the Fraser Valley).”
And while Fraser Health has commented they only expect Abbotsford to have to deal with about two extra deliveries a day, the lack of any maternal resources at the Chilliwack General Hospital (CGH) means the amount of patients will likely be much higher than two a day.
“Last week, Chilliwack’s maternity ward was overflowing,” said Natasha Oglesby, founder of Midwifery Tree in Chilliwack. “They were on diversion for a full two days because they were overflowing.”
“Current assessment and triaging numbers at CGH maternity … equates to approximately 13 assessments and triages per day. For pregnant women to travel extended distances … certainly poses an unacceptable health threat to all birthing women and their babies,” the letter to the BCNU states.
The solution, says the letter, is to utilize the Valley’s midwives: “Midwives are extensively trained and are regulated as outline above. We propose that having midwives on call, at deliveries in CGH as required, able to assess women and triage to to other sites as appropriate would be the safest and most practical model in the situation that we are faced with in CGH, and in the process, the nurses of CGH and Abbotsford would be protected from working outside their scope of practice.”
However, as of yet, Chilliwack hasn’t considered the use of locums or midwives to fill the need at CGH, and Oglesby said it’s “really highlighting how disrespected midwives are in this community … and it infuriates me. We can help take the pressure off of Abbotsford by allowing us to triage the women here (in Chilliwack). We want to help, but they’re not listening.”
Fraser Health has yet to set a definite timeline for the closure, but Doran’s post-meeting email says there’s no “end-date yet, but definitely for the month of July and possibly longer.”
The Hope Standard is continuing to follow this story and will update it as more information becomes available.