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Vernon hospital staff shortages may force babies to be delivered elsewhere

The hospital is experiencing OBGYN shortages
A shortage of obstetrician and gynecologist (OBGYN) specialists at Vernon Jubilee Hospital may lead to expectant mothers having to be relocated to other hospitals, Interior Health confirmed Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023. (Pxhere photo)

The Vernon Jubilee Hospital is experiencing shortages of obstetrician and gynecologist (OBGYN) specialists, meaning some expectant mothers may need to be relocated to other hospitals in the area.

It’s a sub-optimal situation for pregnant women in the North Okanagan who are at or near full term, as the drive to Kelowna General Hospital is nearly an hour, the Royal Inland Hospital is an hour and a half away and the Penticton Regional Hospital is close to two hours away.

Most, but not all, families expecting a baby have been cared for locally, an Interior Health spokesperson told The Morning Star.

“A very small number of cases required us to direct families to alternate locations. We recognize this is not ideal for the small number of families impacted and it is important to stress that these decisions are always based on the safety of expectant parents or patients, babies and children,” said Dr. Douglas Smith, vice president of medicine for Interior Health.

Smith said Interior Health is unable to release exact patient numbers affected by the service disruptions “due to privacy obligations.”

Families expecting a baby should still go to the Vernon hospital, where staff will “determine the most appropriate safe care,” Smith said.

“This could involve transport off site if necessary, but contingency plans are in place for all emergent obstetrical scenarios. Our focus is to ensure patients get the care they need in the appropriate location.”

If expenses related to travel lead to financial hardship for families, Interior Health will provide financial assistance for travel, meals, accommodation “and other approved expenses,” Smith said.

Smith said Interior Health is working hard to avoid service disruptions at its hospitals, including Vernon Jubilee.

“We acknowledge the critical need to recruit and retain medical staff across our sites. We are actively working with the Ministry of Health on long-term solutions to enhance staffing levels in these specialty areas.”

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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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