Can a maternity ward improve quality of care?

Lakes District News will be showcasing stories of women having babies, or who've had babies and what obstacles they've encountered.

In the next few months the Lakes District News will be showcasing stories of women having babies, or who’ve had babies and what obstacles they’ve encountered.

When it came to her second pregnancy, Jenny Tourand expected the final stage of the process to be different.

She had heard from other mothers that the labour and birth of the second child typically happens much faster than the first, in part because the body has experienced child birth before.

This was welcomed news to Jenny and her husband Loren Tourand, who had to travel to the hospital in Prince George to give birth the their second child.

The second child birth was going to be faster, quicker, cheaper and much different from the first, yet it wasn’t, and once again the cost and stress for a family from Burns Lake having a child was added too.

Jenny gave birth to the couple’s second child, Anna Julie, two weeks ago at the hospital in Prince George, the couple’s first child, four-year-old Emily was born at the hospital in Smithers.

Jenny says that having to travel throughout the pregnancy process is just something that adds to the stress of an already stressful situation.

“It was always a big pain because we had to travel to Smithers and travel to Prince George,” Jenny said, “The last month of your pregnancy is even worse because you have go every week to the hospital for a check up with the doctor that will help to deliver the baby, so it’s trips four times a month and it’s a big pain.”

Jenny says that along with the actual travel aspect of heading to Prince George or Smithers for checkups, having to pack up the family and the uncertainty of whether or not she was going to make it time was even worse.

“It’s so stressful because you just don’t know,” Jenny said, “Everyone tells you that giving birth to your second child is fast, and so you’re stressing out, what happens if the baby comes on the way, what are we going to do. I would say it’s super stressful.”

Loren agrees.

“When we had our first child we were out at the West end of Francois Lake and waited right up until we had to leave to go to the hospital in Smithers,” Loren said, “We were lucky it was long drawn out labour because it took us three or four hours to get to Smithers.”

Loren adds that his sister barely made it to the hospital, she gave birth to her baby on her way to the delivery room at the hospital in Smithers.

The possibility of not making it to the hospital in time to give birth has become a natural part of the pregnancy process for families living in Burns Lake.

Many can’t afford the added cost of getting hotel room in Smithers or Prince George for a week on top of the added costs of having to travel to either of those two cities for regular check ups throughout the pregnancy.

This results in families waiting until labour has begun before heading out on the long drives to the hospital.

Even though the Tourand’s had friends they could stay with in Prince George, it was still a week of paying for a number of meals, and the cost of gas to get to Prince George that ate up a lot of money in a short period of time.

However, for families in Burns Lake, the pregnancy process will change shortly.

The new hospital in Burns Lake is set to open ahead of schedule, and features a large maternity ward where women will be able to give birth, unless there is a complication in which case the family would be sent to Prince George.

It is an aspect that will save countless families money during the pregnancy.

Loren, however says that even with the new maternity ward he would feel more comfortable going out of town if Jenny were to become pregnant again.

“We’ve been very disappointed with the hospital for some time now,” he said.

His disappointment stems from the lack in quality of care he has experienced at the hospital.

He has had experiences with both his grandmother and father at the hospital where the quality of care has been inadequate he says, and just recently when Anna coughed up blood after the family returned from Prince George, the hospital here was unable to run tests to give a proper diagnosis on whether or not it was Anna’s own blood that she had coughed up or whether it was Jenny’s blood from the breast feeding.

So, the family had to pack up and head back to Prince George.

“It’s kind of ridiculous that we have a hospital here that anytime that there is slightly out of the ordinary that we have to go down to Prince George for it,” Loren said, “It’s almost like a war hospital here where they’ll patch you up as quick as possible and kick you out the door.”

Jenny disagrees saying she would have her baby here if the option was available, but still concurs that the quality of care is where it needs to be at the hospital.

“I know that it’s going to save a lot of money to many moms rather than having to go to Smithers or Prince George,” Jenny said, “The quality of care isn’t what it needs to be sometimes and that is very disappointing.”

Lorne says he can see the quality of care increasing in Burns Lake if the new hospital is able to recruit and retain more professionals to work here, but if it can’t then it’s just a new building with the same number of staff working there.

“There’s issues with the hospital that go beyond the facilities, it’s the way Northern Health deals with Burns Lake as a town,” Loren said, “How can you go for so many years where a basic thing like having a baby isn’t possible at our hospital? Having babies is something that happens every single day, so how can you neglect that and say that it’s okay that we can run a hospital in town without the ability to deliver babies?”

Northern Health expects to begin transferring patients from the old hospital to the new hospital in January 2015.