As the birthing unit slowly reopens, many parents still expect to give birth in Edmonton until April


The Northwest Territories Health Authority estimates that by March 31, a total of 86 residents will have traveled to Edmonton to give birth. Thirty-five of them come from communities outside of Yellowknife.

Service cuts at Stanton Territorial Hospital’s birthing unit since December have forced dozens of expectant parents to travel for the delivery of their babies.

However, the health authority is working in phases to restore childbirth services for some expectant parents by February 21.

This excludes 13 first-time parents and Nunavummiut who will still be sent to Edmonton from February 22 to April 1. Five of them come from communities outside of Yellowknife.

That number was originally higher – 20 people – but has since dropped due to residents leaving the territory or being transferred to regional delivery in the NWT.

There are 35 people giving birth for the second time or having scheduled C-sections in Yellowknife between February 21 and March 31, the spokesperson for the Northern Territories Health and Human Services Authority wrote. West, David Maguire, in an email.

That should ease some of the child care issues the patients faced when their deliveries were moved to Edmonton last December, he said.

Continuation to Edmonton “on a case-by-case basis”

Two people who could have given birth in Yellowknife for the initial reopening of birth services are still considering continuing with their plans to give birth in Edmonton.

If people have established new supports in the Edmonton area and want to continue with that plan, it will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, Maguire said.

Maguire said Alberta Health Services, the Northwest Territories Health Authority’s partner in the Edmonton area, has “really gone above and beyond and stepped up to support our residents during this time with clinical supports. and associates. We thank them for their excellent work.

The health authority said it was not aware of any known issues affecting prenatal and postpartum health, but acknowledged the childcare challenges that birth evacuations presented to families who already have children.

“We are aware of the inconvenience and logistical challenges this has presented for some families,” Maguire said.

The Northern Birthwork Collective, a reproductive justice and birthwork advocacy group, has raised awareness of how birth evacuations affect people who give birth and their communities.

The collective continues to connect people who are transferred to Edmonton.

Union responds to TikTok video

During the mid-January shutdown, Northern News Services reported on the traveling nurses featured in a TikTok Video play with birthing balls using the “I know something you don’t know. I know something you’ll never know” audio.

The TikTok text reads: “When you accept a travel nurse contract for eight weeks. Show up and the unit is closed. But now you get paid a lot more for doing a lot less.”

In a Jan. 21 email, Northern Workers Union President Gayla Thunstrom wrote that social media posts about the obstetrics unit “add even more to the burden on our healthcare workers. “.

“We have heard from members who feel demoralized, working very long hours and many back-to-back shifts. Our members are also upset for the mothers who have had to go south to give birth, and how that will make them feel. .”

Thunstrom said the union contacted the employer, who said the situation had been “resolved.”

“We hope the employer has brought the matter to the attention of the agency they contracted with,” Thunstrom said.

Cost of running obstetrics during closure

The Government of the Northwest Territories will have spent $606,000 (or $202,000 per month) in compensation and benefits for the obstetrics unit from December 10 to February 21.

During this period, the territory will have spent $42,000 (or $15,000 per month) on unit operations.

During the shutdown, the territory brought in five nurses and locum doctors from outside the territory to keep a limited number of services available.

From Dec. 9 to Jan. 21, the obstetrics unit had five casual registered nurses and four agency nurses scheduled to work, Maguire said.

The health authority did not hire doctors to specifically cover the obstetrics unit, but hired five locums who had obstetrics in their skill set.

Locum physicians typically cover 22% of obstetrics shifts each year.

The majority of the five locum doctors’ time was spent covering family practices, Maguire said.

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