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9Jun

Moms-to-be ‘fearful’ as Chilliwack maternity ward to close for summer

by admin


Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove has requested a meeting with Health Minister Adrian Dix to express his concerns about the temporary closure of Chilliwack Hospital’s maternity ward.


Francis Georgian / PNG

The mayor of Chilliwack is requesting a meeting with B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix to express concerns about a plan to close the maternity ward at Chilliwack Hospital for an indeterminate amount of time starting later this month.

The closure is caused by an “unexpected shortfall in obstetricians,” said Jennifer Wilson, medical director for Chilliwack Hospital. Due to a medical leave, the hospital is no longer able to ensure there is an on-call obstetrician available for emergency interventions and C-sections at all times.

Fraser Health is working on a plan to address the problem, but women who expected to give birth in Chilliwack after June 24 will have to go to Abbotsford Regional Hospital instead, said Wilson. “Our goal is to be up and running again as soon as possible.”

The doctor said the decision to close the maternity ward was not made lightly and she “respects” the concerns of women who are now faced with travelling outside their community to deliver. “We are really committed to making things as safe as possible for women.”

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But Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove said it is “insane” that his community of 100,000 people will not have a maternity ward this summer. On average, there is between one to two births per day at Chilliwack Hospital.

“I understand that it’s difficult (for Fraser Health), but there should have been a plan in place,” he said.

The mayor said he is asking for a meeting with the provincial health minister to discuss the situation. He has also spoken to the mayor of Hope who is worried about the health of women who will have to travel more than an hour — possibly in rush-hour or long-weekend traffic — to reach the hospital in Abbotsford.

“It’s an hour on a good day. What happens if there’s an accident?” asked Popove.

The mayor said he hasn’t been told when Fraser Health plans to reopen the maternity ward. But he has been hearing from families in his community who are worried and anxious.

Former Chilliwack mayor and B.C. Liberal MLA John Les called the closure “a kick in the head” in response to a Chilliwack Progress news story about the closure.

“This is a bloody outrage,” he said in a Facebook post.

“If implemented, this two- to three-month suspension of deliveries will become permanent,” he speculated. “This has been Fraser Health’s dream all along: centralize everything in Abbotsford.”

Wilson said the hospital plans to maintain its maternity ward and is looking for long-term solutions to the staffing problem. It is also working to address transportation concerns from women who may have trouble reaching Abbotsford.

“We have reassurances from Abbotsford … (that) they have the capacity,” she said.

But registered midwife Libby Gregg said the closure is making women “fearful” about their deliveries.

“They are really suffering,” she said, explaining that some women will lose the doctor who has cared for them through their entire pregnancy because the doctor doesn’t have hospital privileges at the Abbotsford hospital.

“These women will be in an unfamiliar situation with people they don’t know,” she said.

Gregg said an increase in stress and anxiety in the late stages of pregnancy and during delivery can have negative impacts on mothers and babies, including a possible increase in inductions and C-sections.

“The implications are huge and far-reaching.”

Gregg said Chilliwack midwives are stepping up to offer their services to women who are scrambling to find a caregiver ahead of the closure, adding “we’re here to support as many families as we can.”

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26Mar

‘Staying close but not too close’ when your child has a disability

by admin

This story is part of Amy Bell’s column Parental Guidance that airs on CBC Radio One’s The Early Edition.


Parenting can be an overwhelming endeavour filled with chaos, doubt and daily fears for your child’s well-being. But if you are a parent to a child with a disability of any kind, you might feel those battles more keenly than others and face fears most parents can’t even begin to fathom.

Through no effort of my own, I have been blessed with two remarkably ordinary children, but for parents with more extraordinary children — who have disability and needs unique to them — parenting can be a time filled with confusing lows and incredibly rewarding highs. 

White Rock resident Leslie Stoneham wasn’t expecting to give birth to a child with Down syndrome 31 years ago. When she had Kierra, she was provided with outdated information and was still presented with the option of giving her newborn up for adoption — in 1988!

But she knew instantly that she was going to raise Kierra just as she had been raising her older daughter, and that meant plenty of  love — sometimes tough love — compassion, and joy.  It also meant focusing on Kierra as a whole person and not just someone with special needs.

Leslie has also had to fight and advocate for Kierra to get the assistance and government funding she is eligible for, and wishes that it wasn’t such a battle for parents to get the support their children deserve.  

Can there be too much support? Not really— it takes a village, after all — but as any parent knows, there are times you need to push your child so they can fully realize what they are capable of . 

‘Give her that opportunity’

Lucia Arreaga is a Bowen Island resident and the mother to a brilliant, boisterous six-year-old girl named Maya. Maya has ADCY5-related dyskinesia — an incredibly rare genetic disorder that causes uncontrolled movements and greatly affects Maya’s mobility.

Yes, she needs a great deal of assistance from her family, friends and community. But her family is very conscious of the fact that while Maya does faces many challenges, part of what will ultimately help Maya is knowing when to take a step back.

“It’s that fine line of staying close but not too close”, said Arreaga. “Give her that opportunity to prove to herself that she can do it.” 

Parents such as Leslie and Lucia and countless others just want their children to be seen as people first — regardless of any special needs they might have. That they not be defined by their disabilities and that everyone realize just how lucky they are to have these children in their lives. 

“She’s been my teacher. She’s taught me to be a better person, ” said Stoneham. 

Arreaga has the same praise for Maya:  “She’s an incredible, incredible human being … who has changed so many people’s perceptions in life.” 

All too often, we view people with special needs and disabilities by what they can’t do, instead of celebrating all that they are capable of and capable of becoming.

Young kids are often most open to children with disabilities, but somewhere along the line to adulthood, we forget that natural acceptance and focus too much on what people are lacking. 

As parents, we need to work hard to instill and keep this kindness and openness in our children.This will only continue to make a more inclusive community for everyone, which ultimately benefits those with disabilities and those without.


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