Pregnant women have been diverted away from Ridge Meadows Hospital.

Pregnant women have been diverted away from Ridge Meadows Hospital.

Pregnant women diverted from Ridge Meadows Hospital

No obstetricians on duty until Tuesday; advised to go to Langley until Valentine's Day.

  • Feb. 8, 2017 3:00 p.m.

Expectant mothers in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are being told they can’t expect to deliver at Ridge Meadows Hospital before Feb. 14.

The hospital effectively has no maternity ward because there are currently no obstetricians on staff.

Jacqueline Blackwell of Fraser Health explained there are two obstetricians who work at Ridge Meadows Hospital on a regular basis, but both have been called away due to “personal emergency circumstances.”

Fraser Health is asking pregnant women in labour not to come to Ridge Meadows Hospital, temporarily. The diversion to Langley Memorial began on Wednesday, and is scheduled to conclude Tuesday, Valentine’s Day.

“Whenever possible, during this time period, expectant mothers in labour should instead proceed to Langley Memorial Hospital,” said a press release from Fraser Health. “But in cases of urgent need, they should go to the emergency department nearest to them. If the mother believes she is having complications, she should call 911.”

Blackwell clarified that urgent need would be the expectation that delivery is imminent. In that case, the mother could be taken to emergency at Ridge Meadows Hospital, if it’s closest, and where she would be triaged and assessed.

The hospital could accommodate a delivery if it were imminent, but there will be no obstetrician capable of handling more complex births, or performing C-sections, if necessary.

This is the first time new mothers have been diverted away from Ridge Meadows Hospital. Blackwell said diversions occasionally happen, and there was a weekend-long diversion away from the maternity ward in Chilliwack

Blackwell said the health authority is aware the diversion may cause families concern and upset.

“Welcoming a child into the world is an exciting time,” she said, but added this is a “unique circumstance” for the hospital.

The health authority has already reached out to all doctors and midwives about the change, and arranged for them to have hospital privileges at Langley Memorial Hospital.

Maple Ridge doula Nicole Chambers said the diversion adds to the stress of bringing a child into the world.

“It’s challenging,” she said. “It adds to the uncertainty of birth, which can be a fearful experience.”

The doula supports a mother through her labour while she is still at home, and drives with her to hospital.

“It’s a controllable circumstance,” she said. “There’s a commute, and we have to keep that in mind.”

Chambers said she is having conversations with clients who are low risk about birthing at home with midwives.

Expectant mothers who have pre-existing plans to deliver at Ridge Meadows should attend Langley Memorial Hospital for their delivery, said Fraser Health.

One of Chambers’ clients who is expecting on Friday said she is considering a home birth. The mother has had two children at Ridge Meadows Hospital, and had great experiences. But her drive to the hospital has gone from five minutes to about 35.

“Nobody wants to have their baby in the car,” she said.

Vicki McLachlan, a client of Chambers, was scheduled to be induced on Feb. 14, but has been forewarned she may be diverted to Langley Memorial or Royal Columbian Hospitals.

Her partner, Kim Johnson, said McLachlan has had a rough pregnancy, has high blood pressure, and the uncertainty adds stress to the first-time mom.

“It’s kind of disheartening,” said Johnson. “We live in this community, pay taxes for our hospital, and now we can’t use it.”

She said it’s a poor service level, considering Maple Ridge’s population.

“They should be able to find a doctor. We’re a fair-sized city now, and to say ‘We can’t find an OB/GYN …'”

If they have any questions, they should contact their family physician or midwife.

The diversion does not impact other health care services at the hospital.