Obstetric interruptions take their toll on local mothers - Reinforcements arrive at Pontiac Community Hospital

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Added: Wed, 11/06/2019 - 11:02am
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Allyson Beauregard

SHAWVILLE – After six obstetrics (OBS) interruptions this year at the Pontiac Community Hospital (PCH), most of them in October, the Centre intégré de santé
et de services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO) announced on October 24, amid a six-day interruption, that two nurses were temporarily recruited from the Jewish General Hospital in Centre-Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal.
The nurses will take turns working full-time alternating shifts at the PCH over the next month, each covering a two-week period. “After this, we’ll reassess the situation. We’re working on several solutions to strengthen the obstetrics service in the Pontiac,” said Marie-Pier Després, CISSSO media relations agent. 
On top of two other interruptions in general surgery at the PCH, which consequently impacted OBS, at least two other OBS interruptions were narrowly diverted, including one that would have been at least a month long if CISSSO hadn’t received the help of a team of midwives from la Maison de Naissance in Gatineau. “The midwives were a temporary solution and since their birthing centre is operating at full capacity, they can no longer support the Pontiac,” said Després.
The interruptions are due to a lack of nursing staff trained in obstetrics at the PCH, which currently has four nurses instead of the 12 normally required to operate the department. 
“Maniwaki had a few interruptions in general surgery at the beginning of 2019, but we recruited a new surgeon and the situation is resolved. We also had one interruption in [the neurology department] at the Hull Hospital. Otherwise, we don't have many in our hospitals,” Després told the Journal.
The PCH has been more severely affected even though  nursing shortages exist elsewhere in the Outaouais and province wide. Pontiac’s position as a border region makes staff attraction and retention even more difficult and competitive with Ontario, where working conditions and wages are better.
While expectant mothers are advised of upcoming interruptions, those arriving at the PCH in labour during a service outage are transferred to Gatineau after evaluation. In the case of an imminent birth, the baby is delivered at the PCH but the mother and child are then transferred to Gatineau for post-partum care.
A stressful situation
Leading up to her delivery, Virginia Lavigne said the frequent interruptions added additional stress and worry to her life. “They made me nervous because it wasn’t in my birth plan to deliver in Gatineau or Pembroke,” she said. Lavigne’s first child
was born at the PCH, but her second arrived in an ambulance en route to the hospital, an event that proved to be just as stressful as the months leading up to his birth.
Lavigne’s water broke at 12:35pm on October 2 and knowing there could be an interruption at the PCH, she had her mother call in advance. “The nurse told us to come ahead to Shawville, but about five minutes later, they called back and said to go to Gatineau because the maternity ward would be closed as of 8 pm. At this point my contractions were back to back and I didn’t think I’d make it to Gatineau, so my mom called 911,” explained Lavigne.
However, when the paramedics arrived, they said they were instructed to take her to Shawville. Amid the confusion, baby Vincent was born on the side of the
highway at 2:20 pm, only 8 kilometers from home.
They continued to Shawville where staff verified both mom and baby were doing well. They were assigned a room, but were again loaded in
an ambulance and sent to Gatineau at 9:30 pm due to the anticipated interruption which didn’t happen in the end.
Baby Cliff Amyotte was born at the PCH on October 6 in between two interruptions, and although mom Claudee Galipeau ultimately got her wish of delivering locally, the amount of stress and anxiety in the final months of her pregnancy due to not knowing where and by whom the baby would be delivered was huge.
“Familiarity and care close to home is comforting. In the Pontiac, you’re followed by
a team who you build a relationship with and have confidence in. Pregnancy is stressful enough without having to worry if you’ll be forced to travel over an hour away to deliver,” said Galipeau, emphasizing the quality and integrity of local hospital staff. 
“The system can’t keep slapping plaster on a long-term problem. How is the Pontiac supposed to attract and retain residents if we can’t offer accessible and reliable healthcare?” she concluded.