'We're stressed out, we're worried, we're scared': Flin Flon mom-to-be struggling with obstetrics suspension
Flin Flon General Hospital baby delivery service to be suspended Monday; no timeline for reinstatement
Logan Oulette was 36 weeks pregnant when her carefully-laid birth plan was pulled out from under her.
It was Nov. 6 — just over three weeks before her due date — when Oulette learned at a doctor's appointment that the hospital in Flin Flon, Man., where she lives, would be suspending its baby delivery services 12 days later, on Nov. 18.
With the news, Oulette's pregnancy excitement turned to stress. The doctor told her she should get to The Pas, over 110 kilometres away, by the following week and stay there until after she delivered at the hospital there.
But Oulette says her family can't afford a weeks-long stay in The Pas, and they're not sure they can afford for her husband to take the long stretch off work. She said no financial support or direction was offered to help her plan until a week later, when another doctor recommended a colleague in Dauphin, where Oulette can stay with family.
"At this point, we still don't entirely know what it means," Oulette said. Dauphin is 420 kilometres away, and if her husband doesn't take time off work he may risk missing the birth should Oulette go into labour early.
"We don't know if he'll even be able to be there for the birth — and if he is there for the birth, that may mean that our bills go unpaid," Oulette said Thursday.
"Stressed isn't even a good enough word, I don't think."
'We're stressed out, we're worried, we're scared'
The suspension of Flin Flon General Hospital's obstetrics program was announced publicly last week.
The announcement followed months of struggles to find locums, or fill-ins, after the hospital lost its full-time obstetrician last year, said Helga Bryant, chief executive officer of the Northern Health Region, last week.
Coverage was only being offered half the time, and a nationwide search for a replacement was unsuccessful, Bryant said at the time. Like Oulette, expecting mothers-to-be were advised to seek out services in The Pas.
Oulette, however, questions why she was only given 12 days notice ahead of the suspension. She says her family has been put in an unfair position.
"I just wish that they would've actually cared enough to give us the time that we need," she said.
Her husband gets emotional when he thinks about missing their baby's birth, she said.
"I just wish that people all across the province could feel how much joy was taken from me because of this. In the last weeks of your pregnancy you're supposed to be excited and joyful, we're bringing home a brand-new baby," Oulette said.
"And instead we're stressed out, we're worried, we're scared. And that's the part that I don't think that anybody who closed the hospital — I don't think they considered that."
Community forum held
In the past year, 150 babies were delivered at Flin Flon's obstetrics centre, which has been equipped to support low-risk births.
Earlier this week, Oulette and other concerned residents attended a community forum with health authority officials to learn more. She said it went well, but she and other parents didn't get real answers.
Noelle Drimmie, a Flin Flon teacher, gave birth in Winnipeg this fall after she went into labour nine weeks early. She said she received wonderful care from the obstetrics team in Flin Flon before being airlifted to Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre, and questions the decision to suspend services.
Where are people going to stay? And how are they going to … take care [of kids] if they have other children?- Noelle Drimmie, new mother from Flin Flon
"I was so mad, you know — I was so frustrated when I heard this news," Drimmie said Thursday. "I just thought, how frustrating and unfair for other women, because I would've been one of those women."
Drimmie said she's worried about other women who may not be able to afford room and board in The Pas, and she's concerned the hospital there could be overwhelmed with an influx of new mothers.
"Where are people going to stay? And how are they going to … take care [of kids] if they have other children?" she said.
The lack of consistent care in Flin Flon was frustrating during her pregnancy, she said, but she valued the care provided by her prenatal nurse along the way, and the quick action of the obstetrician when her water broke.
"My low-risk birth turned into a high-risk birth very quickly," she said. "And had that [obstetrician] not been there, you know, it could be a different story."
The service's future will depend on an ongoing provincial review of health care in the region, which will be complete next year. At present, there is no plan for reinstatement.