Women from the Williams Lake area continue to travel out of town to deliver babies in the wake of the Cariboo Memorial Hospital maternity unit closing temporarily a month ago due to critical staffing issues.
Since the notice went out about the maternity unit closure on Feb. 27, eight women have delivered babies at CMH and 14 at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, confirmed David Matear, executive director of Interior Health West.
“Five families are currently waiting in Kamloops to deliver, five women have been referred to Prince George and three to Kelowna General Hospital,” Matear told the Tribune this week.
One of the women from Williams Lake, who travelled to Kamloops on March 1 to deliver her fourth baby, said she ended up being overdue and spent 21 days away from Williams in total.
“I did get induced the day before 41 weeks and our baby was born on March 18,” Andrea Pinette said, noting they named their baby daughter Lux.
“My husband is an electrician and he was laid off, so he didn’t have to worry about work like some of the other husbands. Of course he wishes to be working, but it was nice that he could be there the whole time.”
Pinette said Royal Inland Hospital was busy all the time she was admitted.
“All my experience was good, we didn’t run into too many bumps, considering I was in the first group that got told to go to Kamloops when things were still a little bit hectic.”
Pinette brought her two year old with her, and eventually her mom travelled from Williams Lake to pick her up and then brought the other children down to meet their new sibling after she was born.
When Pinette’s family did finally return home, she said it was nice in the sense that people were happy to see them because they had been away for three weeks.
Matear said after women from the Williams Lake area deliver in Kamloops, Prince George and Kelowna, IH is following up daily with its patient care quality office, communications, First Nations Health Authority and Aboriginal Health representatives.
“We are tracking any kind of response that we are getting from patients and families and their experiences of the situation,” Matear said.
Interior Health is continuing its recruitment efforts across Canada and internationally for nurses, but it will probably be the beginning of July before the maternity unit can resume full-time operations, Matear said.
“We also have, for the long-term, mentees in the specialist training program,” Matear said.
“Two are graduating in June, another five were due to graduate in December, but we have now gained access into an expedited course which will mean that all seven could graduate in June, which would be great.”
Matear said IH is hopeful it won’t be waiting until the end of June to re-open the maternity unit, but the challenging factor is that hiring nurses permanently takes time.
“Yes, we have people in the pipeline, but we have to have confirmed start dates for them,” he said.
The other variable is attracting enough temporary specialty-trained nurses to build on current nursing staff levels.
Between April 1 and the beginning of July, IH will attempt to “piece together,” with the permanent staff now on a new rotation with a minimum of one specialty-trained experienced RN on each shift, Matear added.
“We are working very hard on this, I can tell you that.”