Royal Inland Hospital is prepared to handle the influx of expectant mothers from the Williams Lake area, according to the facility’s chief of staff.
A recent shortage of nurses at Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake has led to the indefinite closure of that facility’s maternity ward, with patients being diverted to Kamloops to have their babies.
It’s anticipated the closure will impact about 30 to 35 expectant mothers from the Cariboo Chilcotin region per month, RIH chief of staff Todd Ring told KTW.
“We feel that we can still safely absorb a reasonable volume of those patients that do choose to come here, recognizing that some patients may choose to go elsewhere,” Ring said.
On average, about 100 babies are delivered at RIH per month, he said.
“Adding a volume to that is certainly going to add some capacity, but it’s not going to tip things to an unsafe situation,” he said.
Since the closure of the maternity ward in Williams Lake, six babies from that area have been delivered in Kamloops.
Occupancy in the maternity ward at RIH is assessed on a regular basis and additional staff will be brought in as needed, Ring said, noting additional births will mean family physicians conducting more deliveries.
“Our staff, both our nursing as well as our medical staff — physicians, obstetrician and midwives — have been very accepting and willing to pitch in and help out to cover those patients that are being displaced from Cariboo Memorial Hospital,” he said.
RIH routinely experiences surges in maternity care and patients should continue to come to the hospital as expected, Ring advised, adding it is a rare occurrence when someone would need to be transferred elsewhere due to capacity issues.
“There’s definitely times of the year it gets busier and less busy. That’s part and parcel of maternity care,” he said.
On average, the maternity ward in Kamloops sees eight to 12 patients at any one time in various stages of labour and can look after about 16 at once before needing to pursue other options in the hospital, Ring said.
RIH head of the midwifery Joanna Norman said the hospital can manage the additional mothers from Cariboo Memorial Hospital for the next three months, but believes the situation will become difficult if it lingers into the summer when people start taking vacation.
“The maternity team here is already feeling at capacity and over-capacity,” Norman said.
“Absolutely they’re going to do their best and they’re hopefully going to be able to sustain it as long as possible, but they need help, and they need help from Interior Health and they need help from the province.”
It appears RIH will be accommodating expectant mothers from the Cariboo-Chilcotin for at least the next three months.
According to David Matear, executive director for Interior Health West Hospitals, two of seven nurses in a training program for maternity nurses will graduate and join Cariboo Memorial Hospital in June and the other five at the end of the year.
“I think the reality of this situation is it’s going to be continuously re-assessed, ” Ring said. “If there were any other resources that were identified that could support patients to stay within the Cariboo Memorial Hospital, that would be the desirable, so I think we’re still in the wait and see period.”
Women at the 38-week mark of pregnancy are advised to travel to a community where they can have timely access in the event they go into labour.
It’s a three-hour drive from Williams Lake to Kamloops and Matear said arrangements are being made to cover the costs of travel, lodging and meals for expectant moms.
— with files from 100 Mile Free Press