Terrace midwife Katherine Puchala measures the vitals of two-week-old baby Walter at the Terrace Women’s Resource Centre on Aug. 4. (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Terrace midwife denied hospital privileges at Mills Memorial

Northern Health expects to have midwifery review complete by late 2019

A registered midwife looking to gain hospital privileges in Terrace was told Northern Health would not endorse her credentials to establish a clinical practice here.

Katherine Puchala has only been able to provide prenatal and postpartum care for mothers in northwest B.C. for the last year, and is the only midwife with a practice within reasonable distance to Terrace, Kitimat and Prince Rupert.

“I expect that by the end of the year, I will have had more than 40 people in my care,” Puchala says.

For the last year, Puchala has been going through the process of obtaining hospital privileges at Mills Memorial Hospital. This is important, considering an average of 70 per cent of births attended by midwives occur in hospitals, according to the BC Midwives Association. Without privileges, Puchala can’t deliver babies at home or at Mills.

Instead, she can provide care within the first and second trimester before consulting with the prenatal clinic for the third trimester. When it comes time to give birth, the mother’s care is transferred to a doctor at Mills and then transferred back to Puchala once they’re discharged from hospital.

READ MORE: Choosing what’s best for baby

In late January, Puchala says a senior Northern Health medical health official told her she would receive medical privileges within three days, but it wasn’t until April that she was called back for the final verdict.

“I was told there was an issue that came to light in my final reference check, and showed that I am not going to be a good fit here,” Puchala says. Though she says she doesn’t know the specific reason why, and Northern Health did not tell her, citing confidentiality.

“I have since talked to all of my references…none of them had any clinical concerns about myself,” she says. “I was incredibly confused and disappointed.”

Currently, midwives hold privileges in a number of communities in the region, including Prince George, Smithers, Dawson Creek, Hazelton, Village of Queen Charlotte and Masset. But there is a gap in service in the Skeena coast area of northern B.C., leaving expectant mothers who want the option of a midwife no choice but to travel hours outside of their community to get it.

Prince Rupert Advocates for Midwifery wrote a letter to the Minister of Health in July to express their disappointment in Northern Health’s decision and to request an investigation into the matter.

“In a provincially regulated health care system it is a woman’s right to ask for and receive the highest quality maternity care, and we believe that midwives provide this in consultation with doctors and obstetricians when necessitated,” the letter reads.

“Here is a situation where a registered midwife is eager to work in a small town in Northern BC with a demand for midwifery care and a shortage of doctors who provide maternity care, and yet her hospital privileges were not approved.”

READ MORE: Advocacy grows for midwifery services in Prince Rupert

Northern Health says they cannot comment on Puchala’s specific application because of privacy policy, but they recognize it is important for mothers in northwest B.C. to have access to midwifery care.

“We have midwives that hold privileges in communities across the region…we very much appreciate that they have an important role to play in making sure families have a choice in, and access to, prenatal, intrapartum and postpartum care,” says Eryn Collins, Northern Health spokesperson.

The health authority is currently conducting a midwifery review involving a variety of stakeholders to look at demographics, demand, the need for midwives to practice collaboratively with care providers and practitioners, and recruitment. A final report is expected late this year.

Collins also says there is another midwife in Terrace going through the privileging application process with the hopes of starting a practice.

Earlier this week, Terrace mother Megan Brooks met Puchala at the Terrace Women’s Resource Centre for a postpartum appointment following the birth of her fourth child two weeks ago. These appointments are usually done at the family’s home, but due to the presence of a Terrace Standard reporter the mother chose the resource centre for privacy reasons.

Puchala took newborn Walter into her arms and gently placed him on the couch. She measured his vitals, measurements, reflexes and weight while Brooks watched her daughter play nearby.

Puchala says she talks to her clients about mental health, breastfeeding, sleeping schedules, pain management in the early postpartum period, and other aspects of pregnancy with frequent follow-ups. After delivery midwives usually follow up with new mothers within 24 hours. The cost of a midwife is also covered through B.C.’s Medical Services Plan.

READ MORE: Bring midwifery to Terrace

As a mother of four, Brooks says she prefers the midwifery model of care over hospital maternity care.

“I wouldn’t see anyone professionally until the baby was six weeks old,” Brooks says. “When I had more than one [child], I’d have to drag the others along, bringing two to three children with me into the doctor’s office.”

The continuum of care throughout her pregnancy was what made midwifery attractive, she says. Even though she had to switch over care to the hospital once it came time to give birth, Puchala was there in the room with her to act as a doula, or a birth coach.

“I just held on to the fact that I knew my husband would be there and Katherine would be there, so even if I didn’t know anyone else in the room, I knew the two people I picked to be there would be there,” Brooks says.

Despite the outcome of her application, Puchala says having physicians work collaboratively with midwives can help bridge maternity care gaps. Recruiting and retaining doctors in this part of the province can be challenging, and new physicians aren’t required to also provide maternity care. Midwifery can be a collaborative solution to ease the onus on family physicians, she says.

“Midwives are specialists, pregnancy and birth are what we specialize in. We know that our schedules are going to be erratic. We make provisions to try and have some balance in our own lives, but we know that we care for pregnant women only.”


 


brittany@terracestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

City of Prince RupertkitimatNorthern Healthterrace

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Terrace mother Megan Brooks holds her newborn son Walter after a postpartum care appointment with midwife Katherine Puchala. (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Midwife Katherine Puchala lifts newborn Walter into the air to measure his weight. (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Newborn Walter’s feet poke out from the blanket used by midwife Katherine Puchala to measure his weight. (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Midwife Katherine Puchala and Terrace mother Megan Brooks smile at newborn Walter after Megan’s postpartum care appointment on Aug. 5. (Brittany Gervais/Terrace Standard)

Just Posted

A water quality advisory has been issued for the City of Rupert on Oct. 31. (File photo)
Water Quality Advisory issued for City of Prince Rupert

Heavy rainfall contributes to high turbidity levels

Prince Rupert Regional Airport Manager Rick Leach said on Oct. 29 that small community airports, like YPR, need a government cash infusion to survive COVID-19. (Northern View file photo)
Failure of Government and airlines leave regional and community airports on the brink of financial collapse

Govt. cash infusion is needed for smaller airports, like Prince Rupert, to survive COVID-19 - RCAC

Confirmed COVID-19 cases have affected the Prince Rupert community the week of Oct. 29 with a Shoppers Drug Mart employee and an S.D. 52 staff or student being infected with the virus. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID-19 infects Prince Rupert school district individual

S.D. 52 is prepared for COVID-19 and is working under Northern Health protocols - Sandy Pond

Masks are now compulsory at all Prince Rupert public facilities and the City reminds people to discard used masks in waste bins, a media release on Oct. 29 said. (Photo by K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Mandatory mask-wearing effective immediately at city public facilities

City of Prince Rupert makes masks compulsory to protect community health and safety

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Most Read