Pre-natal and maternity care in Southern Interior needs attention

Lack of doctors troubling

It’s no secret our community is growing, and the fastest growing demographic of our population is now the younger generation.

This is great news for our economy and our future but produces different requirements for services.

One of the services the younger generation cannot live without is maternity care.

When I first moved to the Okanagan 26 years ago, I was seven months pregnant with my first baby.

Finding a doctor back then was easy, and my delivery went smoothly. We moved a year and a bit later to Kelowna, and I was pregnant again with my second baby.

After finding a doctor, he suffered a terrible accident, and I was left without a doctor. Panic set in.

How could I be six months pregnant without a doctor to deliver my baby? I called many doctors, but none would take a pregnant woman. It was only through a friend’s referral that I was able to have someone take me.

And now it is even worse.

It was shocking to read the letter from the Central Okanagan Division of Family Practice when it warned local doctors of the shrinking pool of obstetrics physicians in the city. Next year, we are going down to 11 from 13, all while our population is going up.

We know that over the past few years our healthcare system has been struggling, but this decrease is worrisome as it directly impacts the availability and quality of maternity care provided to our burgeoning population.

The challenge is even more urgent when we consider the recent loss of maternity care in Kamloops.

Physicians there were delivering between 60 and 100 babies per month. With the unfortunate closure, Kamloops' expectant mothers now have to travel to other cities for their prenatal and childbirth needs. Their options include Kelowna, already straining under increased demand, and Prince George, which is far from ideal due to the distance involved.

That places an immense burden on our local healthcare infrastructure and, more critically, on the expectant mothers who are now faced with the stress of long-distance travel for essential services. It is not just an inconvenience but a matter of wellbeing and safety for the mothers and their newborns.

Many women in our region will have to be referred to the South Okanagan Maternity Centre in Penticton for care. While the centre provides excellent care, it is also not an ideal solution. Expectant mothers shouldn't have to travel such long distances to receive the care they need.

B.C.’s health minister has not presented any plan of action to address the situation in Kamloops or in Kelowna. This is unacceptable, and truthfully, it is already too late. Women who are expecting are already being referred to Penticton.

Kelowna should have comprehensive, high-quality maternity care right here in our city. Our community deserves to have these services readily available, and our healthcare workers deserve the support required to deliver these services effectively.

It is high time for us to prioritize and invest in strengthening our maternity care infrastructure in Kelowna, for the well-being of our present community and the generations to come.

My question to you is this:

What should be done to protect maternity care in Kelowna?

I love hearing from you. Please email me at [email protected] or call my office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and the Opposition critic for Environment and Climate Change, as well as Gender, Equity and Inclusion.  She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee for Finance as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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