Some mothers forced to travel to have their babies due to obstetrician shortage

Obstetrician shortage felt

A shortage of obstetricians is forcing some expectant mothers in the Southern Interior to have their babies in other cities.

Interior Health acknowledges staffing "challenges" at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, Kelowna General Hospital and Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.

One local doula in Vernon told Castanet that a mother recently had to travel to Penticton for her delivery.

"Interior Health is experiencing obstetrician and gynecologist staffing challenges at Royal Inland Hospital and Vernon Jubilee Hospital, as well as pediatrician staffing challenges in Kelowna General Hospital," IH vice-president of medicine Dr. Douglas Smith confirms.

With the support of locum specialists, almost all expectant families and children have been served at their local hospitals, Smith said in an email.

"A very small number of cases required us to direct families to alternate locations.

"We recognize this is not ideal for the small number of families impacted and it is important to stress that these decisions are always based on the safety of expectant parents or patients, babies and children."

IH said it was unable to disclose the number of patients affected due to privacy regulations.

"Regardless of specialty coverage, we will assess all obstetrical and gynecologic patients on site, determine the most appropriate safe care in communication with our clients and proceed accordingly," said Smith.

"This could involve transport off site if necessary, but contingency plans are in place for all emergent obstetrical scenarios.

"Our focus is to ensure patients get the care they need in the appropriate location."

Travel expenses may be available if the situation creates hardship.

"Our primary focus is to cover all physician specialist shifts and ensure patients have access to quality local care whenever possible," said Smith.

"We acknowledge the critical need to recruit and retain medical staff across our sites. We are actively working with the Ministry of Health on long-term solutions to enhance staffing levels in these specialty areas."

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