Monday, August 4, 2008

GNGH Closes Maternity Ward: Don't Get Pregnant In The Falls

image Since I currently reside in Niagara Falls Ontario, from time to time I feel compelled to blog about local issues.  It seems that the hospital system is running at an 18 million dollar deficit and it has been decided that the best solution is to close the maternity ward at Greater Niagara General.  This is the improvement plan suggested by the NHS (Niagara Health System).

Among the reasons suggested for the closure are a shortage of trained staff and a refocusing of specializations. St. Catherines is projected to become a "centre of excellence" for women's and children's health in St. Catharines. Niagara Falls would become the centre of excellence for plastic, dental and orthopedic surgeries under the plan. NHS officials said the changes are necessary because at present, wasteful duplication of services at its various hospitals and an unwieldy model make it impossible for the system to balance its budget.

Yes you read that right, having a maternity ward in a hospital is a wasteful distribution of services...perhaps we should make it easier on the NHS and have our babies in the hydro fields, swaddle them, and immediately return to work.  Giving birth is a life and death endeavour, and to decide that a hospital does not need to have a maternity ward simply does not validate the danger that women go through when we are having babies.

I live close to the highway and St.Catherines is still a twenty-five minute drive away from me, whereas GNGH is less than ten.  In a time of a medical emergency that time difference could mean death, but we are only talking about the lives of women and children so why should the NHS care.  It is not as if women and children have any real power or value in this society.  The total population of Niagara Falls is, 81,155 and women account for 41,960, that is over 50%  yet for some reason GNGH is not in need of a maternity ward that specializes in gynaecological procedures.  There are 4,725 single parent families and of that figure 3,775 are headed by women, but  a women and children health centre is not needed here.

Just like most small towns in Ontario, the Niagara Region is going through an acute shortage of doctors and in the area of specialists the problem is magnified. Instead of formulating a plan to encourage doctors to make Niagara their home the solution is to reduce the few doctors we have practicing here, and close down the ward altogether. 

As we know, women that alone with a child largely  in poverty, and for the few that are fortunate enough to drive, the distance that they must travel to get healthcare will come at a greater cost due to the increase in gas prices. One of the major issues in this area is public transportation in between the different regions.  It is very difficult to travel easily between Niagara and St. Catherines by bus because the two transit systems do not interact. For those that must rely on public transportation not only will there be an added cost but reaching the hospital will be a long and highly inconvenient journey that includes taking a minimum of 2 city buses and one inter-city bus. (trentway) Imagine making this trip to get pre and post natal care.

Whenever governments talk about cutbacks it is usually the poor that bare the greatest cost, while large corporations continue to receive larger and larger tax breaks.  When the Mike Harris government was elected on a platform of fiscal responsibility he immediately reduced the amount of money welfare recipient received monthly.  This latest bid by NHS is just another attack on the poor and marginalized in society.  At one point do we say that it is not okay to sacrifice essential needs in the name of money?  When will we begin to value people over possessions?  We are all born of women and this is a fact that the bean crunchers need  to remember. Don't let them limit our access to good healthcare without a fight, sign the online petition here.



Purtek said...

Ah, the "centres of excellence" model of healthcare. Euphemisms galore, and more than anything else, focused on just how well the doctors and researchers in the system can manage their careers, maximize their success, establish a reputation or whatever in increasingly specialized subfields.

It's just not *sexy* to deliver basic services to people who need them.

pizzadiavola said...

It's just not *sexy* to deliver basic services to people who need them.

Apparently not. Basic services fields aren't attractive because they're not extravagantly lucrative, and because the recipients of family and gyn medicine are the undervalued - children and women - it's not an extravagantly lucrative field. And so it goes.

Thanks for the info and the link to the petition, Renee.

here-be-dragons said...

St. Catherines is projected to become a "centre of excellence" for women's and children's health

This right here is idiotic - shouldn't ALL health centers be "centres of excellence" for women and children, since well more than 50% of all patients fall into one of those categories? *head desks*

One thing I find interesting about this, though (and I am in no way condoning the hospital's decision to close down its maternity ward, and I have signed the petition), but this is somewhat opposite to the "traditional" attitude towards childbirth over the past several decades (centuries, even) - since male doctors grabbed control of childbirth out of the hands of midwives and the women giving birth. I am not arguing that childbirth is not a dangerous, "life and death endeavor" - it definitely is - but at the same time, it is a natural function, something that women's bodies are designed to do well, with far less medical intervention (in most cases) than women have been subjected to in recent years. I completely agree that women who want access to convenient and affordable birthing options in a local hospital should have that access. It just surprises me that any hospital would make it more difficult for doctors to step in and control this particular aspect of health care, especially if closing the maternity ward encourages more women to opt for home births. (If that's even a legal option in Ontario - I know that midwives are legal in some parts of the U.S., but not others, so maybe that's not even an option for women in Nigara Falls, in which case this decision to close the ward sucks even harder).

The Advocate said...

What about women that live in Port Colborne or Welland? People who don't drive in Niagara generally do not work, as employers continue to have a classist and ableist notion of who they want working for them, only those with enough disposable income ALREADY to pay for the monthly costs of a vehicle, and who are not disabled in any way ... but these same people DO and WILL get pregnant, so I imagine our regional government is not going to budge on anything like this either, as they all have at least 3 cars in THEIR driveways and transportation has NEVER been a problem for them!