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Staffing issues close maternity ward at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital

Northern Health cites patient safety for sending moms-to-be to Terrace in early September
Physician shortages means expecting mothers in Prince Rupert, Smithers and Kitimat were forced to travel to Terrace for care during the first two weeks of September. (The Northern View file photo)

Prince Rupert Regional Hospital’s maternity ward is facing severe strain due to a physician shortage.

For the first two weeks of September, many patients have had to travel to Terrace for treatment.

The maternity wards in Prince Rupert and Smithers, who has dealt with a maternity nurses shortage, have faced “interruptions” in care to patients from the start of the month, according to Northern Health.

Staffing issues in the North are a major worry for the B.C. Nurses Union (BCNU), which has called on Northern Health to rectify the situation.

“The BC Nurses’ Union is very concerned about the recent staffing challenges at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital’s maternity unit and the impact this has had on patients in the northwest region of the province,” said Adriane Gear, President of BCNU, in a written statement.

“A patient’s address shouldn’t dictate the level of health-care services they receive.”

While Northern Health acknowledged the current problems facing maternity wards in certain areas of the North, it said they were planning to resume regular operations in affected areas by the end of this week.

READ MORE: Terrace’s Mills Memorial Hospital goes 8 hours without doctors amid intensified shortages

Northern Health said there were “maternity provider coverage challenges” during the first part of September, and that while travelling during pregnancy is not an ideal situation, bringing patients to Terrace was the safest option for expecting mothers.

“We recognize that having expectant or pregnant mothers travel to give birth can be disruptive but patient safety must come first,” said the statement.

Northern Health also said they have been in contact with expecting mothers to create help plan their potential travels.

“Maternity providers in Prince Rupert, surrounding Coastal communities, and on Haida Gwaii reached out directly to patients, particularly those at higher risk to help them plan based on their care needs and expected delivery dates,” the statement read.

Safety of nurses was a concern for Gear, who said staffing shortages such as these can be detrimental to nurses’ mental and physical health.

“BCNU is also concerned about the psychological health and safety of nurses who continue to work critically short-staffed and are doing their best to provide safe patient care under these conditions,” said Gear.

About the Author: Seth Forward, Local Journalism Initiative

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