What Peace Arch Hospital Foundation executive director Stephanie Beck referred to as the hospital’s recent “maternity crisis” was top of mind at White Rock council’s Jan. 24 meeting.
Beck and foundation board chair Janice Stasiuk had joined the meeting online to update council members on strategic projects at the hospital.
But neither could pass up an opportunity to comment on the narrowly averted three-month closure of the maternity ward and diversion of maternity cases to Langley, cancelled by Fraser Health Jan. 20 following community protest.
Calling the current solution, which includes a new payment strategy to attract and retain pediatric staff, a “short-term fix,” Stasiuk said the foundation will continue to press Fraser Health for a long-term improvement in pediatric coverage.
And, for its part, council authorized a rewording of an letter to Fraser Health and the provincial health ministry that had been written by Mayor Darryl Walker to protest the anticipated closure.
It will now be reframed as a letter of thanks for reversing the decision – but one that serves notice that council will continue to pay close attention to the need for sufficient staff for the maternity ward at PAH.
Beck thanked council, on behalf of the foundation, “for supporting us last week…we appreciate all that you did on our behalf in terms of working together with our communities.”
“So many came out to help – we had young moms, we had doctors, we had the Division of Family Practice…it was really heartening.”
“It was so great to see the power of the people,” Stasiuk observed.
“But, right now, all there is is a short-term fix, which means the department isn’t closing. But there’s still a shortage of maternity spaces south of the Fraser, as evidenced by the intermittent diversions at Peace Arch as well as at Surrey Memorial and Langley.”
She noted the new Cloverdale hospital will not even have a maternity unit.
“The foundation is meeting with Fraser Health later this month to discuss how we can support recruitment and retention of pediatricians to ensure our community has safe and continual coverage for births.”
The issue re-emerged when council approved a motion from Coun. Anthony Manning to reword Walker’s letter to Fraser Health and the Ministry of Health.
Manning noted the letter included a call for the recruitment of sufficient staff to keep the maternity ward open.
“We did hear from the representatives of (the foundation) earlier this evening that they would still like the city to keep pressuring Fraser Health and the province to get sufficient staff.”
“Quite frankly, I think we need to continue to chase this one,” Walker said. “A promise is a promise – it’s not a done deal.”
In the foundation’s presentation to council, Beck noted recent projects at PAH, including the opening of the new expanded emergency department, five new surgical suites and a new medical device reprocessing unit on Jan. 11.
“Underway right now…we still have phase 2 of our ER, which will open in the fall of 2022, and we also a have a new surgical daycare, which is being built on the second floor, which is also opening in the fall of 2022.”
Stasiuk said there is a new master site plan, currently under development by Fraser Health, “which will determine the clinical programs and the space requirements for the next 10 to 15 years at our hospital.”
She said the foundation is currently in a medical imaging campaign to provide replacement equipment upgraded to current technology, a production kitchen and cafeteria redevelopment.
“Next is the ICU (intensive care unit) and the critical care unit – this is the most urgent unit at the hospital for redevelopment,” she said, adding that the current seven treatment spaces need to be expanded to 16.
“The one thing we’ve learned with COVID is that we have a shortage of ICU,” she said.
“We desperately need these new spaces,” she added, noting the expansion to emergency and operating rooms also increases demand for ICU, which will also not be included in the new Cloverdale hospital.
The situation is also exacerbated by the huge growth in population in the Semiahmoo Peninsula, she said.