St. Paul's hospital in Vancouver is being redeveloped. As part of those plans, is a stand-alone birth centre that will be supported by midwives and family practitioners. It is a non-hospital facility. It is intended for low-risk births not expected to have complications.
As a non-hospital facility it will not offer epidurals. As a non-hospital facility it will likely have a high-rate of transfers to the hospital facility adjacent to it - to facilitate either pain relief or surgical delivery when necessary. It is largely conceived with the idea that births that do not involve interventions - will save money, and that the best way to avoid interventions is to remove birth from hospital facilities and have births attended by practitioners who do not view birth as being inherently in need of intervention for low-risk women.
Designing maternity care services with the view to limit the use of intervention is not going to deliver quality care to BC Women or their babies, but rather is going to increase the number of mothers who ultimately have poor experiences of care and longer term consequences as a result of that care. The harm caused by failing to intervene in a timely way when it is needed versus the harm caused by intervening too soon is an order of magnitude worse. A mother who leaves with empty arms or who will be caring for a profoundly disabled child for the rest of her life, has suffered a far greater harm than a mother who might have had a cesarean sooner had she been giving birth in a fully integrated, hospital based maternity ward.
Further it segregates care in a way that is likely to lead to lesser quality care. When family practitioners and midwives who deliver maternity services are segregated from OBGYNs it often leads to less collaboration in care - fewer opportunities to discuss their patients and develop professional relationships that benefit their patients. At it's worse, it can lead to situations where women and babies die because OBGYN's are seen as rivals rather than colleagues.
Lastly, it segregates women, new mothers from one another. It is one more way in which one mother can goad another - where how a woman gave birth is advertised merely by where she chose to give birth. It is one less thing for mothers to have in common when they meet at the neighbourhood park or coffeeshop.
If quality care is the goal, collaboration between those who provide maternity services is key. If quality care is the goal, timely care is paramount. If quality care is the goal - how maternity services are structured must be integrated, not segregated. Women should be empowered to make the choices that best meet their needs - and not coerced into making the choices that best meet the needs of the system.
What is the goal? Quality care or to save money?