Woman in labour struggles to get to hospital because of bridge work

A woman in labour was delayed from getting to a hospital by about 40 minutes due to road work on the only bridge between Shippagan and Lamèque, N.B.

Minister investigates after crews initially barred a woman in labour from crossing the Shippagan bridge

Debbie Mallet went into labour on the early hours of Oct. 11, several weeks before her due date. When she tried to cross the Shippagan bridge to the mainland, she was told by construction workers it was closed for the night. (Credit: Radio-Canada)

A woman in labour was delayed from getting to a hospital by about 40 minutes due to road work on the only bridge between Lamèque and Shippagan, N.B.

Debbie Mallet's due date wasn't until December, but early on Oct. 11, her water broke. Mallet called her father-in-law, Jean-Claude Haché, for a ride, but when the pair got to the bridge on the Lamèque side, they found a construction barrier.

"They yelled and yelled and yelled," Mallet's mother, Berthe Mazerolle, told Radio-Canada. "[Haché] said, 'I have a woman in my vehicle who is giving birth, it's urgent!'"

Mallet continued to yell in both English and French and when they attracted workers, they were told the bridge was closed for the night. With her contractions now two minutes apart, the pair went to Lamèque's hospital, which was closed for the night. That's when Haché called 911.

An ambulance picked them up from the closed hospital. When they reached the bridge, Mallet still had to wait six minutes for the workers to lower it so they could cross.

They headed to the Miramichi Regional Hospital, which is about 90 minutes away under normal conditions. Mallet gave birth at the hospital at 4:28 and 4:33 a.m. to twin boys, but their journey wasn't over.

Mallet's mother, Berthe Mazerolle, said she's concerned other people could be harmed by the construction project's apparent lack of an emergency plan. (Credit: Radio-Canada)

"The first one that was born at 4:28, he had a collapsed lung and had a cardiac arrest, but they brought him back," said Mazerolle.

Mallet's second son had to be put on a respirator as soon as he was born. Both boys were transferred by air to the Moncton Hospital's neonatal unit, where they remain in stable condition.

"Minutes count, I don't want that to happen to anyone else, not just a pregnant woman, but a senior, someone who hurts themselves, this can't happen again," said Mazerolle while fighting back tears.

Province launches investigation

Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Bill Fraser said Atlantic Underground Services is contractually obligated to lower the bridge for emergency vehicles during the work.

The minister has launched an investigation after receiving conflicting reports from the contractor, who Fraser said wasn't aware there was an emergency when Mallet first arrived at the bridge.

Repair work is scheduled to continue on the Shippagan bridge for the next six nights. (Credit: Radio-Canada)

Fraser said a full briefing is expected on Monday, which could lead to some adjustments.

This is the second time in 2017 that residents were prevented from crossing to the island. A powerful windstorm in May downed several utility poles. Access on and off the island was restricted for days while crews repaired downed power lines.

Another six nights of work is scheduled to complete the repairs to the Shippagan bridge. Fraser said the work is required to replace some of the lift mechanisms on the bridge.

About the Author

Matthew Bingley


Matthew Bingley is a CBC reporter based in Saint John.

With files from René Landry and Anais Brasïer