Friday, October 21, 2011

Pushing for Better Access to Maternity Care in BC

BC Children's and Women's hospital continues to be the only level 3 hospital in BC with Dedicated Obstetric Anaesthesiology to provide anesthesia services to women who are in labour and delivery. Royal Columbian, Surrey Memorial, and Victoria General Hospital are also level 3 hospitals. Both the government and the health authorities have known (or ought to have known) that failing to have anesthesiologists to meet the needs of pregnant and labouring women would result in delayed and denied access to epidurals, delayed and denied access to elective c-sections, delayed access to urgent c-sections and delayed access to emergency c-sections.

As a result of these delays and denials women have been harmed. Those who had their access to epidurals unreasonably delayed have had to endure unneccessary labour pain. Those who have had their access to epidurals denied have faced unneccessary labour pain and have faced the risk of general anesthesia in the event of an urgent or emergent c-section, the risk of inadequate pain management in the event of an instrumental delivery, and an increased risk of their child needing to be resuscitated due to exposure to intrapartum narcotics. Those who have had elective c-sections delayed have faced increased risk including the increased risk of going into labour prior to the c-section and an increased risk of an unwanted vaginal delivery, and for those who did go into labour awaiting their elective c-section they endured unneccessary labour pain and increased surgical risks. For those who had their c-sections denied, they endured an unwanted vaginal delivery, unneccessary labour pain, and all the sequalae and risks of vaginal delivery that would have been avoided if the planned c-section had taken place. For some their husbands and loved ones have had to watch as they suffered unneccessarily. For some they continue to experience increased levels of anxiety and may have PTSD and PDD as a result of their poor birth experiences. Some are hesitant to trust the health system and some are choosing to forego having additional children out of fear that the medical services that they need won't be there when they need them.

Thankfully for vast majority of these women who have been impacted there have been no long-run damage to their health or the health of their child, but unfortunately for some there have been disasterous consequences.

Women who have been impacted need to take a stand and demand better from their government and the health authorities. They need to write to the Patient Care Quality Offices of their respective health authorities. They need to write to their MLAs. They need to take a stand and say that it is wrong to unreasonably delay or deny access to epidurals and c-sections to women at level 3 hospitals. It is particularly wrong when women and their care providers have determined that access to these services are in the woman's and her infant's best medical interest (both physical and psychological).

Government needs to be held accountable for this apalling breach - or nothing will change.

Email me at if you have been impacted by this issue and are interested in making a difference in BC.

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