Timeline unclear for return of obstetrics to Gander
Health Minister John Haggie is hopeful a new obstetrician will be in place for Gander by November.
Obstetrical services were diverted to Grand Falls-Windsor because of doctor shortages back in May. Central Health announced at the time the diversion would be in place until the end of October, however, the health authority didn’t respond to The Central Voice’s request for an update before press time.
Haggie said a United Kingdom-based doctor is in the process of closing his practice and will be in Gander sometime in November.
“I think the recruitment issue has been real challenge for Central Health,” Haggie said about doctor shortages in obstetrics especially.
He also said the Health department will be offering its services to help boost Central Health’s recruitment efforts. While the department has done in the past, Haggie said, it will be a more focused effort.
“What we have looked at is the use of a professional search firm,” Haggie noted. “We’ve been challenged as a province to support physician recruitment and retention, and I think given the time, duration, and the need to get on with midwifery services. we are going to work with Central Health to use outside agencies to achieve this.”
While the provincial point of view is the midwifery pilot project in Gander is still moving forward, it can’t actually place midwives there without a dedicated obstetrical unit.
There are other parts of the province that can accommodate midwifery right now, but Haggie is holding firm on Gander.
“We are very much committed to (Gander) and I’m not deviating from that,” he said. “Our challenge here is to help Central Health recruit a core of obstetricians who want to work in a collaborative practice and help take the lead in establishing midwifery.”
Although she would prefer a working obstetrical unit to move the pilot project forward, Gisela Becker, the province’s midwife consultant, wasn’t too worried about the timeline.
Having established these programs in other parts of Canada, Becker said, it can take three to five years to get a dedicated midwifery program in place.
“There are still outstanding pieces that will probably have to be done when the midwives get in place, but it will be easier once the obstetrician team is on the ground,” she said.
She understands people would like to have the service in place as soon as possible, but collaborative effort is needed to provide the best care possible to expecting mothers.
Midwives are an option for low-risk patients, helping healthy moms and babies through the childbearing cycle – pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
“They can look after women with some risk factors, but they need to consult and sometimes transfer to obstetricians,” Becker said. “You need functioning obstetrician (services) for collaboration and good partnership. Unless we have that group in place, it’s hard to start midwifery services.”