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Unregistered babies prompt changes at northern Ontario hospital

Ontario announced this week a new, more secure birth certificate and one hospital in northern Ontario is making changes to ensure more babies have the paperwork in place to get one.

Interpreter helps moms fill out forms for 450 babies born each year at Meno Ya Win Health Centre

Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre says parents will get help to fill out birth registration forms before leaving the hospital with their newborn. (slmhc.on.ca)
A simple step means babies will be registered. A native language interpreter visits each family during their stay at the hospital to explain the registration process and help fill out the form. 4:01

Ontario announced this week a new, more secure birth certificate and one hospital in northern Ontario is making changes to ensure more babies have the paperwork in place to get one.

Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre sees about 450 births each year, most of them to families from isolated First Nations, hundreds of kilometres away from the hospital, said director of patient care services Sue Anderson.

The hospital was routinely receiving calls from Service Ontario about unregistered babies, or seeing infants return to hospital for health care without the requisite paperwork for a health card, Anderson said. Meno Ya Win is now working on systems to ensure the two-part birth registration form is completed before the baby leaves hospital.

"Sometimes you go home and you're just worried about getting some sleep and feeding your baby, never mind doing some paperwork," Anderson said of the previous practice of simply sending registration forms home with new moms.

Now a native language interpreter visits each family during their stay at the hospital to explain the registration process and help fill out the form.

'Enormous' challenges

The only hitch, Anderson said is the requirement that the paperwork include the child's legal name and  "sometimes they want to go home and have a grandparent name the baby." In that case the interpreter walks the parents through the steps they'll need to take once their child is named.

The other part of the birth registration is a statement of live birth that is the responsibility of the hospital and must be filled out by a trained clerk. Anderson said the number of births at Meno Ya Win presents "enormous" challenges when it comes to getting all the paperwork completed.

Currently the hospital has one clerk dedicated to birth registration, but it intends to train more, she said.

Birth registration is the first step towards getting a birth certificate, a social insurance number or child tax benefits in Ontario. It's also needed to acquire a health card.

Before the changes at Meno Ya Win, Anderson said children were coming back to the hospital without health cards.

"It's difficult to provide care," she said. "I mean we always do, but this is a necessary task that needs to happen in order to receive proper care throughout their lives."

Anderson said the hospital continues to seek feedback from Service Ontario, families, communities and staff about how to improve the system.