Chilliwack General Hospital’s maternity ward is on diversion until July 9. During that time, labouring women are being asked to travel to Abbotsford to deliver their babies.  Paul Henderson/Chilliwack Progress file

Chilliwack General Hospital’s maternity ward is on diversion until July 9. During that time, labouring women are being asked to travel to Abbotsford to deliver their babies. Paul Henderson/Chilliwack Progress file

Diversion at Chilliwack General scheduled to end 13 weeks earlier than anticipated

From now until July 9, labouring women are being asked to deliver in Abbotsford

Although they were preparing to divert labouring moms for up to 15 weeks, the Fraser Health Region says they’ve managed to reduce that time down to two weeks.

“Initially, the diversion was precipitated by an unanticipated medical condition (experienced by one of the hospital’s obstetricians (OB)), and the 15 weeks was our contingency plan,” said Dr. Jennifer Wilson, medical director for the Chilliwack General Hospital (CGH).

“We’re very fortunate that the doctor’s health has improved and they are able to come back and help sooner rather than later,” Wilson continued. “So it will be back to business as usual on July 9.”

RELATED: Chilliwack General Hospital diverting moms-to-be to Abbotsford starting June 24

From June 24 to July 8, 2019, Fraser Health is asking pregnant women who were going to give birth at CGH to go to nearby Abbotsford Regional Hospital (ARH) instead.

“The decision to have a temporary diversion was made to ensure a high level of care for expecting mothers,” said a statement released by the Health region. “The health and safety of moms and babies is our first priority, (and while) we appreciate the impact this service change may have … it is temporary and not expected to impact a large number of patients.”

“It’s a big deal to divert for even two weeks—we don’t take that lightly,” said Wilson. “But the number of activities around making pregnancies safe … meant we had to shift all those activities to Abbotsford.”

Patients won’t need to find new doctors or midwives, nor will they need to make arrangements to seek out a physician at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. All those arrangements will be made by their current care team for the time period of the temporary diversion.

Pregnant women with due dates outside of the expected diversion timeline, routine prenatal care will continue to take place through community offices, as will postnatal care, as well as routine non-stress testing will continue at Chilliwack General Hospital during this time. Only high-risk pregnancies will be referred to Abbotsford for non-stress testing.

“This should be a time of great joy, and a supported life event, not a time of stress, so we have great regret (about diverting labouring moms), but it’s absolutely for safety,” Wilson said.

RELATED: Chilliwack’s maternity closure a ‘health hazard,’ says letter sent to BC Nurses Union

And even though “the majority of births in Chilliwack are done under the care of a midwife or physician, and most women are expected to have an uncomplicated pregnancy … sometimes unexpected things happen around the time of delivery, and in those settings you may need access to an OB because you may need to move to an intervention,” Wilson explained.

Normally, CGH has three obstetricians who cover each other off, but “maintaining coverage with three physicians is taxing, (so) there is now a position posted for a fourth OBGYN,” Wilson added, “because it’s really important to have that back-up.”

And while CGH isn’t the biggest hospital in the region, Wilson says its catchment area is “very large,” comprising 45 per cent of the health region’s territory, which means there is a large patient population to consider, always. “And we’re growing,” the doctor added. “Our latest data is from 2016, but the (area’s) grown considerably since then.”

Wilson says it’s also important to note that all hospital services have diversion plans in place for specialized services.