QHC is announcing today that we can no longer provide maternity services at Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital after August 2013.
QHC first announced it would probably need to close the maternity service at PECMH in January. Based on initial feedback from the Prince Edward Family Health Team and community, the hospital corporation has been working with PEC physicians and nurses to determine if there was a way that the service could remain in Picton.
"Unfortunately, despite their efforts the group has not been able to come up with any solutions that we felt were relatively cost-neutral and sustainable while maintaining the same quality of care, so we have now reached the point where we needed to make the final decision to close the service," said Katherine Stansfield, Vice President & Chief Nursing Officer. "This was a very difficult decision and we recognize it won't be well received by the community. The maternity service at PECMH has been a valued and respected part of the hospital for decades. Unfortunately, we can no longer provide consistent 24 hour coverage with nurses who have the specialized skills and training to provide obstetrical care."
The number of women choosing to deliver at PECMH has been steadily declining, driven by women's choice of where to deliver and population trends. There are now less than 35 births per year in Picton.
QHC has long stated that it would continue to provide maternity services in Picton as long as there were adequate nursing and physician resources to safely provide the services. There have been three times over the past four months where nurses were not available to help deliver babies and any laboring women were automatically sent to BGH to deliver. These gaps in nursing coverage increase in July and August and there are additional staffing changes in September that will make the maternity service at PECMH unsustainable. While options such as providing necessary training to all nurses were explored, the low volume of births makes it difficult for those nurses to maintain competence in these skills over time.
"Many rural hospitals in Ontario and Canada have stopped providing maternity services over the past 10 years, with a notable exception being hospitals that are significantly more remote than PECMH," said Dr. Dick Zoutman, QHC Chief of Staff. "We are hopeful that the Prince Edward Family Health Team will continue to provide pre-natal and post-natal care in their offices through a shared care model with the Belleville-based obstetricians. They are also always welcome and encouraged to deliver their patients' babies at Belleville General Hospital."