No more babies: Lacombe Hospital and Care Centre to end obstetrical services

Lacombe Hospital and Care facility. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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Expecting mothers will now have to travel to Red Deer or Ponoka as there will be no more babies delivered at the Lacombe Hospital and Care Centre.

On Wednesday, Alberta Health Services (AHS) announced they are ending obstetrical services at the hospital effective Friday, Dec. 20, as a result of declining delivery rates.

“The decision comes after lots of consultation and review of our obstetrical services and the birth rates at the facility have dropped quite significantly over the last couple years,” said AHS Area Manager for Lacombe and Bentley Kimberley Sommerville.  “In 2017, we had 91 births. Last year ,we had 81 at this time, and this year we only have 31 babies to date, and so because obstetrics is a high-risk practise that requires a team of experts with specialized skills, you need to be able to deliver babies regularly to keep those skills up. Completely for patients’ safety and experience, we have chosen not to proceed with obstetrics or deliveries at this facility.”

The practice at the Lacombe hospital already was to refer out higher-risk births, but now the low-risk births will follow suit. Only imminent, emergency-situation births will be performed or assisted, and patients will then be moved to another hospital for post-natal care.

Local physicians are reaching out to their expecting patients to work out or revise plans for their births, and those who will deliver in months to come will then be transitioned from a local physician to a doctor for delivery in either Red Deer or Ponoka at around the 30-week mark.

While it’s last-minute notice right before the holidays, Sommerville says with such a steep decline in birth rates, AHS felt they could not hold off on discontinuing obstetrical services.

She says it is no way a financial decision, and no jobs will be lost as a result.

Overall, the decline in birth rates at the hospital is a result of expecting mothers already choosing to go to other locations rather than stay in Lacombe.

“We’re seeing this decrease, I think, because a lot of patients are choosing to deliver at a site where there’s surgical backup or epidural choice or that sort of thing and we can’t offer that in Lacombe,” she said. “It’s truly related to patient safety and the patient experience of delivering babies on site.”

The hospital currently has two dedicated labour rooms. The decision on how to repurpose those rooms will come in 2020.

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