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Maternity clinic improves access to care for women in North Island communities

March 1, 2017

Pregnancy and childbirth is full of joys and stresses - having to travel for hours for routine prenatal appointments shouldn’t be one of them. That thought would lead the physicians of the Campbell River Maternity Clinic down an unexpected path, to the creation of a unique clinic in Campbell River that is significantly improving access to care for families across the North Island.

Three family physicians began working together in 2010 to provide maternity care in Campbell River.  It wasn’t long before they began noticing a couple of trends – patients without family doctors and those who had to travel for hours from northern communities for routine appointments. In 2014 they began travelling once a month to Port Hardy to ease the travel burden on their patients. Demand for their services exploded, with a 46% increase in prenatal visits in a single year.

It became clear to doctors Bre’el Davis, Angela Logan, Dieter deBruin and Jennifer Kask, that having a clinic space near the Campbell River Hospital, where most women would deliver their babies, would further improve their patients’ experience and access to healthcare services. The goal to open a clinic near the hospital was catalyzed by the experience of a North Island patient who, despite staying at a hotel in Campbell River, was unable to get to her checkup because she had no transportation and her appointment was too far to walk.

In 2015 the physicians got funding assistance from the Campbell River Hospital Foundation, First Nations Health Authority and Island Health to open the maternity clinic at the Campbell River Hospital. Since opening one half day per week late in 2015 the clinic has grown quickly.

The clinic is now open half-days, four days a week, allowing the five family physicians who are involved to see an average of 45 patients per week for antenatal, postpartum and newborn care. At the clinic families can also access vital support from public health nurses and the Healthy Beginnings Program, as well as social workers and an aboriginal liaison nurse based at Campbell River Hospital.

“Having the clinic at the hospital also means women can easily access radiology and lab services,” notes Kask. “More women are having contact with public health. Our hospital is in a neighbourhood and we find that many women walk or take the bus to the clinic."

Thanks to their monthly road trips to Port Hardy, Kask and her colleagues are able to build stronger relationships with families, and estimate that they have saved their patients about 90,000 kilometers of driving. That’s important for women like Quatsino’s Linda Charlie, whose daughter Camille was born at Campbell River Hospital on December 28.

Like all first-time mothers from the North Island, Charlie had to leave her home community and move to Campbell River a month before her baby was due. Although she had the support of her boyfriend, sister and visiting relatives, Charlie says it wasn’t easy being away from home and staying in a hotel for weeks. She appreciates that her earlier prenatal appointments with Dr. Kask were in Port Hardy. “It was good to get to know her,” says Charlie, whose daughter is thriving and healthy.

About 38% of the clinic’s patients are from rural and remote areas. Many of the others, like Campbell River’s Noella Janzen, don’t have a family doctor when they get pregnant.

Janzen worked construction at the new Campbell River Hospital almost until the end of her pregnancy. “It kept me in shape,” she laughs.

Without a family doctor and unable to arrange for a midwife, Janzen wasn’t sure what to expect at the clinic. “I rarely ever go to the doctor and I didn’t even know what questions to ask,” she says, adding that that clinic staff were welcoming and flexible about accommodating her work schedule.

“They were all amazing, it didn’t matter who I saw,” says Janzen, whose son Simon is now seven months old. She continues to get a warm welcome when she visits the clinic.

Welcoming women and trying to accommodate their schedules, and even allowing drop-ins, is an important part of providing the best possible access to care for women who would otherwise find it difficult, says Kask.

That’s a goal that has the support of the First Nations Health Authority, which provided funding support to hire a Medical Office Assistant for the clinic.

“Improving access to high-quality and appropriate health and wellness services for women in the North Island is a shared interest of providers and recipients of care, said  Brennan MacDonald, FNHA Regional Director for Vancouver Island.

“The maternity clinic at the Campbell River hospital is one example of how our work in partnership can improve the experience of care and ultimately, improved health outcomes.”

The Campbell River Hospital Foundation was also eager to support the clinic, providing needed equipment. “It is an honour to support the Maternity Clinic and to be a part of a program that ensures Campbell River and North Island Residents receive the care they deserve during their pregnancy,” says Stacey Marsh, Executive Director of the Campbell River Hospital Foundation. “Dr. Kask and her colleagues have a true passion for providing quality maternity care to their patients and we strongly believe in the service the clinic provides.”

Dr. Jeff Beselt, Island Health’s executive medical director for the region from the Comox Valley to Port Hardy, predicts that ongoing collaboration between groups like private physicians, Island Health and the FNHA will continue to improve maternal and child care for North Island families.

“This group is doing incredible work for patients,” said Beselt. “We’re very fortunate to be able to work with such passionate and skilled individuals and for them to focus on providing excellent maternal and child care for families across our whole region.”

PHOTO: Linda Charlie of Quatsino, pictured with newborn daughter Camille, is a patient of the Campbell River Maternity Clinic.

Media Inquiries
Shari Cummins
Island Health Communications Advisor
250.740.6973
Shari.Cummins@viha.ca