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Fraser Health decision to close Peace Arch Hospital maternity widely criticized

Expectant mother, Jenny Bray, among many left to find alternative solution
Expectant mother Jenny Bray said her carefully made birth plans are now up in the air, after Fraser Health announced on Friday that it will close Peace Arch Hospital’s maternity department for three months, beginning Jan. 28. The ministry of health said women will be diverted to Langley Memorial Hospital for delivery instead. (Aaron Hinks photo)

A South Surrey mother who’s expecting to give birth in 11 weeks has added her voice to the chorus of criticism over Fraser Health’s planned closure of the Peace Arch Hospital maternity ward.

Doctors, nurses, advocates, politicians, community members, Peace Arch Hospital Foundation and even Fraser Health executives have called out the health authority for its decision to shut down the maternity ward for three months, beginning Jan. 28.

The health authority, which declined an interview request from Peace Arch News, said in a press release that the reason for the closure was a lapse in pediatric care.

Jenny Bray was one of an estimated 1,000 parents expecting to give birth at Peace Arch Hospital this year. She was planning a C-section in spring, but was left to come up with an alternative location for her operation.

“I met with (my doctor) yesterday and the plan was, well, where am I going to deliver?” Bray said Tuesday. “She doesn’t have privileges in Langley and she was interested in doing Langley. It looks like I’m going to be up at Surrey Memorial, but all of that is basically TBD.”

“I would have hoped 11 weeks out I would know where I was going to have the baby, but we just don’t know right now.”

Bray said she was “absolutely shocked” by a Fraser Health press release, issued at 5:45 p.m. on a Friday, announcing the closure.

Bray echoed statements from a local advocate and family physician that Peace Arch Hospital’s issue with pediatric care is systemic.

“I know that this pediatrician issue has been ongoing and the fact that they just, out of nowhere, blindsided the community, the doctors, everyone I spoke to had no idea this was coming. They just pulled the trigger,” Bray said.

Bray noted that the South Surrey and White Rock area is exploding with new families as a result of recent developments.

“And to just say no babies are going to be born in the community for three months – you can’t do that.

“What do you mean? It’s not like we’re going to stop having babies.”

And while the situation has created undue stress, Bray said she benefits from the fact her delivery is a planned C-section and that it’s not her first time giving birth.

“I can’t imagine if I was a (first-time) mom and I was due Jan. 28 or early February.

“You have your birth plan in mind, you know what to expect, you have a visual of what it’s going to be.

“To be told no… I just can’t imagine the additional stress that they have. I have at least 11 weeks to prepare and plan.”

READ ALSO: Physicians’ rep takes Fraser Health to task over Peace Arch Hospital closure

READ ALSO: Peace Arch Hospital protests planned over maternity ‘diversion’

South Surrey’s The Motherhood Project owner Jen Delmaire said Fraser Health’s decision has the potential to compound issues of post traumatic stress disorder, birth trauma and safety concerns that were already elevated due to the pandemic.

The Motherhood Project works closely with maternity clinics, midwives, doulas, physiotherapists and birthing families to support people who are pregnant, postpartum and beyond.

The pandemic has shifted how people prepare for pregnancy, Delmaire said.

Expecting parents are not able to access the same level of support they once had; isolation has affected mental health; and pregnant people have had to go to their appointments by themselves or participate virtually.

“So when I think about this, I just think about the amount of high potential there is to create post traumatic stress disorder and birth trauma when there already is a heightened amount of post traumatic stress and birth trauma happening due to what we’ve been experiencing the last couple of years,” Delmaire said.

In addition, the decision poses a safety risk, Delmaire added.

“I have a number of clients who, for example, are planning to have a home birth. The reason they’re doing that is because they feel safe enough (that), if they were to need an urgent transfer to hospital, Peace Arch Hospital is just five minutes from them,” Delmaire said.

“So it changes what their birth experience looks like now if, potentially, they have to transfer somewhere further, like to Langley.

“So not only now are they considering the risk to themselves, to their baby, but they also might not be able to have the birth experience that they are wanting.”

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About the Author: Aaron Hinks

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