Women planning on birthing at Chilliwack General Hospital this summer may have further to travel than originally thought: CGH is planning on diverting its patients to Abbotsford for the coming months. Photo by Trevor Gawdin

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

Pregnant women of the eastern Fraser Valley will be diverted from Chilliwack due to lack of doctors

Parents-to-be in the eastern Fraser Valley who planned on delivering their children at Chilliwack General Hospital (CGH) will soon have to temporarily go elsewhere to give birth.

Due to personal circumstances reducing the availability of CGH’s only two practising obstetricians, medical coverage on the maternity ward would be lacking if an emergency situation presented during a labour. So Fraser Health is now asking pregnant women in the eastern Fraser Valley—from Chilliwack to Boston Bar—who are due at the end of the month to head to Abbotsford when it comes time to deliver their babies.

“Fraser Health is asking pregnant women not to come to Chilliwack General Hospital temporarily, beginning June 24,” the health region stated in a public service announcement released late in the afternoon onWednesday, June 5.

READ MORE: ‘Critical’ nursing shortage at B.C. hospital has pregnant women travelling hours to give birth

“Expectant mothers who have pre-existing plans to deliver at Chilliwack General Hospital should attend … Abbotsford Regional Hospital for their delivery.”

It’s unknown at this time how long the diversion will be in place, but it’s estimated to last anywhere from two to three months.

“Both Mayor Ken Popove and myself have been in touch on this subject and find it unacceptable,” Mayor Peter Robb said. “We are waiting for confirmation on a meeting in Vancouver with Minister Adrian Dix to discuss options that are more suitable for our communities.”

Members and stakeholders involved in pre- and postnatal patient care in the region met last Thursday morning (June 6) to discuss with Fraser Health the impeding diversion, and how to mitigate the diversion’s affects for patients across the entire Valley. The Hope Standard has reached out for comment about the meeting’s results, but has yet to receive an answer from Fraser Health.

But in regards to how many women this will affect: “We anticipate on average two deliveries per day, which can be accommodated at Abbotsford Regional Hospital,” said Tasleem Juma, senior consultant of pubic affairs for Fraser Health.

Data from the Provincial Health Services Authority for the Fraser Health Region from 2015 – 2016, shows CGH delivered 801 babies, which equals about two births per day, however, the population of the eastern Fraser Valley, which CGH serves, has grown substantially during the past few years.

And with only two maternity wards in the area, which deliver nearly 10 per cent of the province’s babies annually, diverting all patients to ARH may be problematic, said Natasha Oglesby, founder of the pregnancy care centre, Maternity Tree, which is run by midwives.

Sending labouring moms out on the road may not only lead to babies being delivered roadside, but it may also leave women in a stranger’s hands, says Oglesby, who’s been a midwife for nearly two decades.

“If Abbotsford’s on diversion, which it has been in the past, moms will be sent on to places like Langley or Surrey, and we don’t have privileges in those hospitals.” This potentially means a mom from Boston Bar will have to drive nearly 200 kilometres from home—while in active labour—to have her baby delivered by a stranger in a hospital she may never have been in before.

“It’s a scary thought,” said Sandra Hoft, who’s not only pregnant with her second child, but is also a nurse. “I progress (in labour) really fast, and I can see (CGH) from my house, but now I have to go to Abbotsford.”

READ MORE: Chilliwack community leaders react to maternity diversion at CGH

Because of her medical history, Hoft has been scheduled for an induction, which her care practitioners believe to be the safest course of action, but now that CGH’s maternity ward is being shut down, her care, and the care of dozens of others from across the Fraser Valley, is being shuffled into Abbotsford, which only has funding for 21 maternity beds.

“I was (also) told the E.R. nurses in Abbotsford were told they would be doing triage on labouring patients to determine whether they make it to the ward upstairs, or are diverted to another hospital,” Oglesby said. And it’s important to note there are a variety of reasons why a pregnant woman may go to hospital—labour, triage assessments, non-stress tests, fetal monitoring, precipitous births, et cetera—and emergency nurses lack about 12 months of education that maternity nurses have.

“If they make the choice to send a labouring mom elsewhere, and something happens to that mom or her baby, that nurse is liable” because she operated beyond the authority of her nursing licence, Oglesby explained.

Overall, it’s a situation nobody’s happy with, said Oglesby, not even the doctors: the women don’t want to have to travel, and care providers want to do just that, provide care. With that in mind, Oglesby and several other local midwives have offered the Fraser Health Region the option of keeping CGH’s ward open, but running it as a birthing centre, rather than a delivery ward, for pregnant women deemed low-risk. Currently, the Region has passed on the offer, said Oglesby, but the community isn’t ready to give up just yet.

Locals are banding together to write local political leaders, and a Fraser Valley doula has created a GoFundMe to help provide Maternity Tree with a Non-Stress Test machine.

“As a birth doula, a mother, and a women in the Fraser Valley, my heart is broken,” wrote Danika Rose, who started the fundraiser. “This is not OK. The mothers and babies in our communities deserve better.”


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