Obstetrics department closes at Lacombe hospital after drop in births

Babies will no longer be delivered at Lacombe Hospital and Care Centre as of Friday.

Closest option is Red Deer, 25 kilometres away

Obstetric services will no longer be offered at Lacombe Hospital and Care Centre. (Google)

Babies will no longer be delivered at Lacombe Hospital and Care Centre as of Friday.

Health officials say they conducted a review after noticing deliveries at the hospital dropped from 81 last year to 31 this year.

"We're seeing a progressive decrease in patients choosing to deliver in Lacombe and to keep our competencies up and to maintain patient safety, we just felt it was probably the best decision to cease services," said Kimberley Sommerville, Alberta Health Service's manager for the area.

Sommerville said reasons for the drop in births at the facility were two-fold.

"We don't offer epidurals or surgical backup onsite. So for mothers that want to have a surgical backup if they require an emergency C-section or if they want to have an epidural they were already needing to seek services elsewhere. But as well there is a decrease in the amount of people who are having children."

Amanda Knowles had two babies at the Lacombe Hospital, including Lacombe's New Year's baby of 2017. She says she received plenty of personal attention, staff were great and her husband was allowed to be with her every step of the way.

Amanda Knowles says she had a great experience delivering two of her babies at the hospital in Lacombe.

"I just really enjoyed it. So the fact that other moms aren't going to get to enjoy it is kind of disheartening," Knowles said.

The closure makes Red Deer's hospital the closest option, which is 25 kilometres south. Knowles doesn't think that's fair to families.

"And especially in the winter when there's such bad weather and your wife's in labour and you have to drive on the highway to get there," she said.

Sommerville says no one will lose their jobs but staff will no longer have to undergo extensive training to maintain those skills. The current doctors delivering babies are family physicians, as well as nurses.

AHS says no other obstetric departments are being shut down.