Budget cost-cutting in Ottawa hospitals puts newborns at risk

It was announced on Mar. 27 that Ottawa moms will be discharged within 24 hours of delivering a baby.

This is directly linked to the closure of the birthing unit at Renfrew hospital and may compromise the well-being of newborn babies, the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE stated.

The shortening of maternal stays from 48 hours to 24 hours at the Ottawa Hospital, and the upcoming June closure of birthing and obstetrics at the Renfrew hospital, is in part due to budget constraints.

“[This] has little to do with good evidence-based health policy and better outcomes for moms and babies. Rather, the head of obstetrics at the Ottawa Hospital has said frankly that the shorter stays for moms and babies are related to budget cost-cutting,” said Michael Hurley the president of the OCHU.

A 2007 policy statement on post-partum maternal and newborn discharge, released by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC), states that “early discharge from hospital postnatally increases the risk of neonatal mortality and morbidity….The [newborn] who is discharged at less than 48 hours is at greater risk than the mother.”

“Surely Ottawa has enough Liberal Cabinet Ministers at Queen’s Park to mount a defense of its mothers and newborns.”

The SOGC’s statement refers to a large Washington study of neonatal mortality, which examined 47,879 births between 1989 and 1990. During this period, 9101 newborns were discharged before 30 hours of age.

“This group of newborns was found to have a significantly higher mortality rate in the first year of life than those newborns that stayed in hospital longer,” states the SOGC.

What do you think about the early discharge? 

The SOGC also state that “ER visits were significantly more common among mother and newborn pairs discharged early.”

According to the SOGC. early discharge is less than 36 hours, and the readmission rate for those seen in ER was 33 per cent.

Since the Ottawa Hospital plans to cut new mothers’ stays to 24 hours instead of the recommended 36, this will be considered “early discharge” and may put newborns at risk.

“They cant be forcing new moms and brand new babies out the doors with such little support and essentially no peace of mind that their baby will be safe once he/she gets home,” said Ottawa resident, Jordan Brazier.

After being discharged, Renfrew moms may have to travel to a larger centre like Ottawa to receive pre-natal and post-natal care.

“Not everyone can drive from Renfrew to Ottawa  to receive the care they will need and in traumatic cases they may not even have enough time,” said Brazier. “You can’t really control when you will either give birth or need the care provided by a birthing unit – being so far away from a hospital which offers that support is risky.”

“There is no room for further cuts in these hospitals,” Hurley said. “Surely Ottawa has enough Liberal Cabinet Ministers at Queen’s Park to mount a defense of its mothers and newborns.”

Watch this slideshow in full-screen to see the three options for care after discharge, as recommended by the SOGC:

Created with flickr slideshow.
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