Bathurst-area expecting mothers forced to travel to give birth

A nursing shortage in northern New Brunswick has forced the closure of an essential service for expecting mothers

Birth delivery services of the obstetrical unit at Chaleur Regional Hospital have been “closed until further notice,” according to Vitalité Health Network.

“My clients come to me and ask, ‘Well, what do we do?’” says Pascaline Vanoplynus, who is currently the only birth doula in the Bathurst area. “What’s the plan? What’s the plan B?”

Birth delivery services at Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst have been closed until further notice

“Just at the end, you feel comfortable with those people that you meet,” says Véronique Décoste, who is expecting her second child in December. “Then, finally you have to kind of retract and say ‘oh, OK, I have to switch over and go somewhere else.”

Décoste is looking at heading to Miramichi for the birth, but that’s over an hour away.

“I know that at that moment when it’s going to happen, it’s going to be stressful,” she says. “Even though, if we want to be zen and try to relax (about) everything that’s going to happen, it’s still part of that stress that we don’t want to be involved in.”

The other option for expecting mothers in the area is to drive to Campbellton.

Vanoplynus says it’s important to make sure files are transferred from Chaleur Regional Hospital to Miramichi or Campbellton– something the health network is asking expecting mothers to contact Chaleur about, to have them sent in advance.

“I feel that it’s not necessarily going to be personalized,” says Décoste. “I really hope actually that they’re going to have at least one good reading of the intention of every expected mom.”

Véronique Décoste will be forced to give birth over an hour away from home due to the closure of services in Bathurst

An issue that’s been on the radar of the New Brunswick Nurses Union, according to president Paula Doucet.

“The problem is that there’s a shortage of nurses. We’ve been saying it for a number of years,” she says. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, that it has fallen on deaf ears that there was no contingency plan put in place to ensure that we would have enough nurses in the system to offer the services that we currently have.”

The services at the hospital were closed for two weeks – Oct. 22 to 26, and Oct. 30 to Nov. 6, before announcing it would remain closed until further notice.

“Within our hospitals, we need to fill 200 nursing positions,” says a statement from Thomas Lizotte of Vitalité Health Network.

Lizotte says they’re not sure when the services will be able to be provided at that location again. But specialized nurses are needed to provide labour and delivery services, says Doucet.

Blaine Higgs, who was officially sworn in as premier Friday, says it’s an issue that he’ll be looking into.

“I want to understand those categories of where we have those shortages, what level of care are we talking,” Higgs says. “Prioritize that level of care so that we start deal with those particular places. Also, look at how many people were graduating (and) where are students going after they graduate.”

The New Brunswick Nurses Union hopes to meet with Higgs and Ted Flemming, who has been sworn in as the province’s health minister.

Aside from additional costs if you choose to have prenatal visits in Miramichi or Campbellton, Décoste says the stress will also add up.

“When you’re into that mode, you just want to feel the more comfortable as much as you can,” she says. “Because that’s the only way to control; to relax.”

For Vanoplynus, she’s been hearing similar concerns since the closure has been announced.

“I’ve heard a lot of women telling me, ‘I’m just tired of explaining the same thing over and over, and just reviewing my birth plan with one person and another person and they’re asking me the same questions.’”

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