Patient left in lurch after Antigonish midwifery program suspended

A pregnant woman who is just one month away from giving birth is upset after learning last week she no longer has a care provider for her pregnancy.

Hailey Martens of St. Peter’s, N.S., has been working with her midwife for the past seven months. On Wednesday, when she had her last appointment, the midwife told her she wouldn’t be able to see her through to the end of the pregnancy.

“They explained that the government was not going to fund them anymore,” Martens said. “We were very upset.… It just kind of broke our hearts.”

Martens’s baby is due on Jan. 18. She said someone from St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish gave her the names of two doctors who are willing to accept her as a patient, but so far she hasn’t heard back from them.

Martens’s baby is due on Jan. 18. (TracyLynne Photography)

Martens said she’s upset because she had built up a relationship with the midwives and now she won’t know her doctor.

“They knew what I was afraid of, how to make me feel comfortable, and I was looking forward to them being there,” she said. “Now it’s going to be a stranger.”

Sally Loring, the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s senior director of maternity and children’s services, said it was “unforeseen circumstances” that led to the midwife’s departure.

“I know there are rumours about lack of funding and things like that. It’s not that funding is being withdrawn or anything like that. It’s unforeseen circumstances.”

Loring said all patients who were being cared for by the midwife will be transferred to either a family physician who does deliveries or to an obstetrician. Staff are still in the process of getting in touch with the 22 affected patients, Loring said.

“It is very unfortunate for these mums. Some of them are relatively near to their due date, so it is upsetting for them, I’m sure,” she said. “What we’re trying to make sure is, as far as mums are concerned, that their care is seamless and that they don’t notice this transition.”

There are usually three midwives who work for the midwifery service that operates out of St. Martha’s. Loring said one is leaving her position in mid-January to return to B.C., one is currently on leave and the other has been on sabbatical since September.

Loring said the health authority has been advertising since the summer to fill the position of the person who is on sabbatical, but since the job is only temporary, it’s been difficult to find someone.

The midwifery service is not accepting new patients until the staffing situation is resolved.

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