UPDATE: Fraser Health Authority announced during a media call this afternoon that it is reversing its decision to close Peace Arch Hospital’s maternity ward as of Jan. 28.
Last Friday, the health authority announced that for a three-month period, expectant mothers with a birth plan at PAH, would be diverted to Langley Memorial. The backlash from the community was swift and culminated in a protest outside the hospital that began today at 10 a.m. and was scheduled to continue until 2 p.m.
Full story to come.
Original story below:
Community leaders in White Rock and South Surrey are plotting their next steps after Fraser Health announced its decision to close the Peace Arch Hospital maternity for three months.
Members of the community gathered in front of the hospital Thursday to protest Fraser Health’s decision.
Doctors, nurses, advocates, politicians, residents, Peace Arch Hospital Foundation and even Fraser Health executives have called out the health authority for its decision to shut down the maternity ward for three months, beginning Jan. 28.
The health authority, which declined an interview request from Peace Arch News this week, said in a press release that the reason for the closure is a lapse in pediatric care at the hospital.
About 75 people attended the protest Thursday morning, which kicked off at 10 a.m. and was scheduled to run until 2 p.m. A second protest is planned for Saturday.
Peninsula resident Tracy Van Hislop and her 14-month-old child Jordan were among several young families that participated in Thursday’s protest. Both Tracy and Jordan were born at PAH.
Asked for her reaction to the closure, Van Hislop said she was surprised with how emotional she was regarding the news.
“Because it’s part of family history and I live so close by. It’s part of my plan for the future,” Van Hislop said.
She also expressed concern about the three-month timeline.
“If it’s a three-month closure, where is the staff going to go? Are they going to hang around and wait to come back? I don’t think that’s going to happen.
“They’re going to have to move somewhere else and there’s going to be more of the same issue. More staffing that they’re going to rehire.”
White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker, Coun. David Chesney, Surrey-White Rock MLA Trevor Halford and former White Rock mayor, MP and MLA Gordie Hogg were also among the participants at Thursday’s rally.
Walker echoed concerns voiced by protesters that the “temporary” closure will, in fact, be permanent.
“It’s being taken away from us. We’re told for three months and I don’t for a minute believe that. I believe three becomes six, then it just becomes normal,” Walker said.
“It’s a community that’s absolutely exploding with growth. It’s not just White Rock, it’s the Peninsula. We’re losing a service here that’s absolutely essential to the families of this community and, most importantly, to the women of this community. This is their hospital, this is where they should be able to come and see their doctor. This is where they should expect to come when it’s time to have their children.”
In a press release, Fraser Health said expectant parents that have plans to give birth at Peace Arch Hospital will be diverted to Langley Memorial Hospital. PAN learned that some birth plans, however, are being diverted to Surrey Memorial.
“I’m told Surrey is already over-served and yet we’re going to be sending people out there. The one over in Langley is a long way away and I think it’s in the same boat,” Walker said, adding that the new hospital planned for Cloverdale will not include a maternity ward.
“So what does that say about this government and the health authority about the importance of families, of women, and women having their children in a spot they are comfortable? That’s why I’m here,” Walker said.
Walker said White Rock is in the process of applying pressure to the Ministry of Health and province. At the next regular council meeting, the mayor plans to bring forward a motion for the city to contact the Ministry of Health and government “to say that this is just not on.”
“I have every intention of talking to some of the other mayors and councils in our area. I’m hoping Surrey will be represented here today or Saturday. I’m going to try to contact Delta because their hospital is going to take some of the pressure of it. I’m going to try and contact the mayors of Langley City and Langley Township to make sure they understand what this is going to mean for their communities.”
While Fraser Health said an “unexpected leave” led to the decision to close the ward for three months, Surrey-White Rock MLA Trevor Halford said he’s heard from several credible sources that there was no unexpected leave at the hospital.
The Ministry of Health has not yet responded to a PAN request for clarification on the unexpected leave. Halford said he, too, has been unable to get clarification on the matter.