Expectant moms, Peace Arch Hospital pediatricians rail at ward closure


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Obstetrics chief says difficult to attract pediatric specialists to White Rock hospital, leading to low morale and patient diversion

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Vancouver sun.

Publication date:

08 Jul 2021 • 28 minutes ago • 4 minutes read • Join the conversation Natalie Meyers, holding her newborn son Elliott, says ‘not knowing where to deliver, or deliver safely, feels like a disservice to all of us.’ Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

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By: Denise Ryan

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Natalie Meyers, the mother of a newborn in Surrey, BC, traveled 19.5 miles to Langley Memorial Hospital on June 8 due to the closure of the maternity ward at Peace Arch Hospital. She nearly gave birth in the car and was rushed to emergency surgery minutes later. to save her from a postpartum hemorrhage

“It was life or death,” said Meyers, who lives about two minutes from Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock, where she has midwifery privileges and she planned to give birth.

With Peace Arch Hospital’s maternity ward forced to close again, July 9-19, due to what Fraser Health calls a “gap in pediatric coverage,” Meyers speaks out about her harrowing experience and urges health authorities on to do more.

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“You put women who are already vulnerable in an even more vulnerable state. Not knowing where to deliver, or safe delivery, feels like a disservice to all of us,” said Meyers.

dr. Semion Strovski, chief of Peace Arch’s maternity hospital and co-head of Peace Arch’s obstetrics and gynecology department, said the hospital struggled for years to recruit qualified pediatricians, leading to patient diversion.

Peace Arch employs four full-time pediatricians, Strovski said, but Peace Arch does not have a nursery or observation unit, so if a newborn needs support or care for the first few days of life, they must be transferred to another hospital.

This presents challenges in attracting skilled pediatricians, Strovski said.

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“Pediatricians can’t keep up their skills, they often just act as a dispatcher,” he said. “This is a point of frustration for our pediatricians.

“Our question to pediatricians is that the hospital should have an observation unit or a level one day care center, so if a baby is born and needs care for the first few days of life, it can be done here.”

Last year, Peace Arch diverted some 250 maternity patients due to staff shortages. Redirecting working mothers also poses serious safety concerns, Strovski said.

“Last year I had a patient who was diverted to Surrey who was referred to Burnaby and on the way to Burnaby she had a car accident,” he said.

“They should deliver closest to their home hospital. Childbirth support is very important, but if you’ve never seen (the person) the relationship isn’t there.”

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In Meyers’ case, “because I had a history of postpartum bleeding, it was very important that I be with a healthcare team that knew my history and was prepared for it,” she said.

After working at home all night, Meyers called the midwife at 6 a.m. when her water broke, and was told a room was available at Langley Memorial. Her delivery was faster than expected during the 30-minute drive to the hospital. “By the time I got to the ward, his head was coming out.”

Her son, Elliott, was born five minutes after arriving. “They didn’t even know my name,” Meyers said.

The bleeding started right away. Meyers needed two blood transfusions and emergency surgery to stop the bleeding. “If I had given birth in the car on the way to the hospital, I would have died,” she said.

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“I’m angry that I ended up in that situation.”

Strovski said a proposal was submitted to the health ministry two years ago to expand services and address the issues, but nothing came of it. He added that morale in the ward is low and pediatric nurses are concerned about employment instability.

Stephanei Beck, Executive Director of the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation said: “The Foundation expects the Department of Health to negotiate quickly with the doctors to reach an agreement so that we can provide the best possible care in our rapidly growing community of White Rock and South Surrey. .”

In a statement to Postmedia, the Department of Health said: “Both Fraser Health and the Department of Health recognize the desire to improve maternity care/pediatric services at Peace Arch Hospital. Recruiting pediatricians into Fraser Health has been an ongoing challenge, and Fraser Health and the Department worked with the Pediatrician group at Peace Arch Hospital to implement a model that would provide additional services and attract physicians to the area. Those discussions are ongoing in hopes of finding a solution to best support the community.”

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“All we hope for is uninterrupted coverage for children so we can provide safe care for our patients in our community,” Strovski said. It is a community that is growing. Peace Arch has seen a steady increase in the number of babies delivered in the maternity ward, from 700 in 2009 to 1,000 last year.”

“When I look out my window, I only see row houses and young families and expectant mothers,” Meyers said. “I hope no one else has to go through what I went through.”

dryan@postmedia.com

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