This Wednesday, there was a bit of uncertainty for many pregnant women in Chilliwack: where would they give birth?
Some women were told they would be sent “elsewhere” if they had to go into labour over the long weekend — echoing the first two-week closure of the Chilliwack maternity ward back in June that Fraser Health so politely deemed a “diversion.”
When that first diversion happened, I was grateful my baby’s due date was a long way away. Only 15-weeks pregnant at the time, I breathed a sigh of relief for myself and watched as other women who were not so lucky shared their worries on social media.
“I don’t mind Abby Hospital, but I’m fast on my labour,” one mother wrote on Facebook. “(If) I stay in Agassiz area, I might have to have a home birth.”
“I feel for all those moms who will be in a lurch, having to travel an extra half hour while in labour,” another wrote. “I’m just glad I already see an OB gyn from Abby; registering at the Abbotsford Hospital next week for my scheduled C-section.”
People who weren’t giving birth also weighed in: it was an outrage, a disservice, a blemish on the institution that is Fraser Health.
Then, success! The diversion was over. On June 20, Fraser Health proudly proclaimed that the maternity ward would be returning to Chilliwack General Hospital July 9. (The closure would begin on June 24.) The problem had been a matter of staffing, and that issue had been resolved.
Not so, as we later found out.
Again, this weekend the maternity unit was scheduled to close. Given the timing, it seems safe to assume that one of Chilliwack’s hardworking obstetricians was about to take the relaxing long weekend they surely deserved.
The story went up online. A Chilliwack city councillor took to Twitter in protest. And Fraser Health hastily called the Chilliwack Progress back to say: “Diversion? What diversion? Everything’s fine over here.”
Except that it is clearly not fine.
Pregnant women have enough to worry about — from whether they know how to safely get the baby into the car seat to whether their mother-in-law is going to push their way into the delivery room. (Currently, I’m worrying about whether to get a cheaper stroller, or one that will convert into a double if Baby Number Two comes along.)
For every perfectly logical decision, there’s a thousand troubled thoughts that led to it. None of those should have to be about where they’ll give birth.
Hospitals have protocols to make things like diversions go smoothly, of course, and I trust that when Chilliwack’s maternity ward is diverted, they do their best to make things as simple as possible for the stressed-out parents.
But let’s face it. The only thing on your mind during labour should be getting that baby out of your uterus as safely and efficiently as possible. There doesn’t need to be the added complication of potentially moving hospitals in the bargain.
And the simple fact is, it shouldn’t have to be diverted.
There should be enough staff available to keep a maternity unit open for a hospital that serves a huge portion of the Fraser Valley. Agassiz depends on it. Harrison depends on it. Heck, even Hope and Boston Bar depend on it — not to mention the First Nation communities that surround those towns.
Hopefully Fraser Health can find obstetricians to fill the void in Chilliwack’s maternity unit. (They’ve had a job posting for a fourth OB/GYN up since the first diversion. It’s still available, if any doctors are looking to settle down in Chilliwack.) But as my December due date comes closer, I wonder: will I be facing diversions to Abbotsford then too?
For my sake, and the sake of all Fraser Valley women having their babies between now and then, I certainly hope not.