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Service at Chilliwack General Hospital maternity ward to be disrupted in August

Pregnant women with complications may be diverted to Abbotsford Regional Hospital
Service in the maternity ward at Chilliwack General Hospital will be disrupted over two weekends in August due to staffing issues. (The Progress file photo)

Staffing issues at Chilliwack General Hospital (CGH) may force pregnant women from the eastern Fraser Valley to go elsewhere to deliver their babies over two weekends this month.

Service at the CGH maternity ward will be disrupted on Aug. 13-14 and Aug. 27-28 due to a shortage of pediatricians. Ideally there should be five, but two are out for personal reasons, leaving the hospital short staffed. A pediatrician is not required for all births, so if everything goes smoothly it’s not as big a problem. But when there are complications, Fraser Health says maternity patients in labour may be diverted to nearby hospitals.

The closest alternative is Abbotsford Regional Hospital (ARH).

“Expectant parents will be contacted directly via their physicians, midwives or by Fraser Health directly to advise of any potential service impacts,” Fraser Health media spokesperson Nick Eagland said in an email statement. “The health and well-being of all pregnant people and their babies is of utmost importance. Fraser Health is committed to ensuring babies, children, and their parents have access to emergency and urgent care when they need it.”

Eagland said obstetrician coverage remains in place at CGH to support patients admitted to the maternity unit.

CGH normally provides maternity care for women from Chilliwack and areas east, all the way out to Boston Bar. While it’s certainly not ideal to have a woman from Chilliwack diverted to Abbotsford, the ask is even greater for someone from Hope (150-kilometre round trip), and greater still for someone from Boston Bar (290 kilometres).

RELATED: Chilliwack community leaders react to maternity diversion at CGH

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On average, two to three deliveries occur at Chilliwack General Hospital each day. A particularly busy month in May of 2020 saw 120 babies delivered.

Eagland said obstetrician coverage remains in place at CGH to support patients admitted to the maternity unit.

This is not the first time staffing issues have forced pregnant women to leave Chilliwack. Twice in the summer of 2019, reduced availability of two obstetrician-gynecologists led Fraser Health to the same decision.

“In cases of urgent need, they should go to the emergency department nearest to them,” Fraser Health said in a press release in June of 2019. “If the mother believes she is having complications, she should call 911.”

At the time, community leaders responded with outrage.

City Councillor Jason Lum called the move “unacceptable” in a post on social media, a sentiment echoed by councillor Chris Kloot.

“This is totally unacceptable,” Kloot said in response to Fraser Health’s announcement. “We are a regional hospital and this is not in the best interest of our region. I look forward to hearing of your solution to fix this ASAP.”


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Eric Welsh

About the Author: Eric Welsh

I joined the Chilliwack Progress in 2007, originally hired as a sports reporter.
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