(AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)

Chilliwack maternity ward closure narrowed to two weeks

Fraser Health says they’ve found a solution to an expected 13-week shortage of obstetricians

The closure of Chilliwack hospital’s maternity ward has been narrowed down to two weeks, according to a release sent out by Fraser Health Thursday afternoon.

“Thanks to the strong teamwork of Fraser Health and its partners, full maternity services will resume on July 9 at Chilliwack General Hospital, reducing the total diversion time down to two weeks from the anticipated 15 weeks,” the release states.

However, there will still be a diversion protocol in place for a short time. From June 24 to July 9, Fraser Health is asking pregnant women who were going to give birth at CGH to go to nearby Abbotsford Regional Hospital instead.

The closure is due to an unexpected shortage of on-call obstetricians, from Chilliwack’s regular three who cover maternity calls.

“The health and safety of moms and babies is our first priority,” Fraser Health said. “We appreciate the impact this service change may have, but it is temporary and not expected to impact a large number of patients. The decision to have a temporary diversion was made to ensure a high level of care for expecting mothers, in part due to an obstetrician shortage.”

Fraser Health adds that patients do not need to find new doctors or midwives, nor do 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.”

READ MORE: Chilliwack maternity diversion a ‘disservice,’ Kent council says

For pregnant women, routine prenatal care will continue to take place through community offices, as will postnatal care, and that routine non-stress testing (baby heart beat test) will continue at Chilliwack General Hospital during this time, and it would only be for high-risk pregnancies that non-stress testing would be referred to Abbotsford Regional Hospital.

Typically Chilliwack has three obstetricians providing full coverage. However, from June 24-July 9, there is only one obstetrician to provide 24/7 coverage which is not sustainable from a patient care and safety perspective. Chilliwack General Hospital will be on a limited two-week diversion during this time period and following that will resume regular maternity service.

Fraser Health says that “all hospital services have diversion plans in place for specialized services such as maternity, cardiac care or trauma and these plans are to ensure that patients who need these levels of service always have access to care even if there is intermittent capacity or human resource challenges at one site.”

“For Chilliwack General Hospital, intermittent diversion may occur for these reasons as per our normal network of hospital practices.”

The release does not say how the health authority is covering off the weeks that were expected to be diverted. However, earlier this week, they did post a listing for a fourth OB/GYN on Indeed.com.

The advertisement states: “We are seeking a 4th colleague to join our Chilliwack OB/GYN group. We are a collegial group who work closely with an excellent family practice group and midwifery groups. Chilliwack General Hospital (CGH) is a 131 bed, University of BC affiliated community hospital offering medical, surgical, obstetrics, psychiatry, and a regional eye centre, as well as 24/7 emergency services with 60,585 visits annually.”


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jpeters@theprogress.com

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