YELLOWKNIFE (November 22, 2021) – The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority will be temporarily suspending regular (planned) labour and delivery services at Stanton Territorial Hospital and moving to an emergency service only for a temporary period of time. This means that all individuals that are due to give birth in Yellowknife between December 10th, 2021 and February 21st, 2022 will have their care transferred to Edmonton for labour and delivery. Staffing challenges, particularly nursing, during this time period mean that Stanton is not able to ensure adequate personnel to operate the full volume of birthing services in a safe manner.
Stanton will retain emergency services in labour and delivery during the suspension; however, the hospital will not be able to provide birthing services outside of emergency or urgent situations.
This change will have different impacts depending on the location of the person who is set to give birth. Specifically:
- Scheduled births in Inuvik are not impacted
- Midwifery supported births in Fort Smith are not impacted
- Services in Hay River are not impacted
- Individuals from communities outside Yellowknife who would normally travel to Yellowknife to give birth will travel further, to Edmonton.
- Individuals from Yellowknife who would normally give birth in their home community will also travel to Edmonton.
Patient notification for current known impacted individuals started this morning and will continue until complete. Each individual will be contacted by phone and provided an opportunity to ask questions and receive further information. Notification is being prioritized in order to notify those with due dates on or closest after December 10th.
Generally people who are pregnant and will give birth in a community outside their home community travel before or during their 37th week of pregnancy. This means that individuals will spend between 3-5 weeks on average in the location where they will give birth. Regular medical travel supports will be provided to all impacted individuals, people may also have other insurances that provide medical travel benefits. NTHSSA will work with individuals to determine travel needs and what they may qualify for.
NTHSSA has dedicated a team to work directly with impacted individuals to determine what supports may be required and will work to ensure cross-system collaboration to add support to reduce the burden of this change where possible.
The standard of care for labour and delivery is one-to-one nurse to patient ratio while actively in labour. Staffing levels at Stanton continue to fluctuate and recruitment continues to be a challenge. Efforts have been and continue to be made to recruit, retain, or train from within for specialized nursing roles like obstetrics. There is a national nursing shortage and high demand across all jurisdictions for nurses; this is more acute in areas where specialized skills and training are required like obstetrics.
The duration of the service reduction will continue to be reassessed and services will be opened sooner if possible or be delayed further if staffing does not improve.
“Ensuring patient safety and quality of our services is the most important thing to everyone at Stanton and throughout the NTHSSA. These are difficult circumstances and decisions and we empathize with everyone whose birth plan is now changing, however we want people who are impacted to know that at the core of this decision is the safety of them and their newborn child.”
-Kimberly Riles, CEO of the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority.
- In 2019-2020 there were 581 babies born in the NWT, 540 of these at Stanton Territorial Hospital
- The suspension of regular birthing services at Stanton will impact individuals who have due dates between December 10th, 2021 and February 21st, 2022 who would normally have delivered their baby in Yellowknife.
- The Obstetrics unit is required to provide 24/7 services to residents across the NWT. For safe staffing levels Stanton would have two shifts each day with each shift staffed by three nurses with specialized training and skills in labour and delivery/obstetrics. The standard of care is one-to-one nurse to patient ratios during active labour and delivery. Current staffing levels are not adequate to guarantee these ratios can be met, they also are not at a level to support surge capacity that is required to operate a safe obstetrics unit in periods of high-demand.
- Capacity that does exist will be retained to ensure readiness to provide emergency and urgent obstetric care.
- Stanton transferred birthing services once in the past, in 2002, due to Staffing shortages.
- Residents in almost all NWT communities need to travel for birthing services and are required to spend time in the community in which they give birth before and after their delivery.
- All individuals giving birth are approved for a non-medical escort for their trip.
Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority
TEL: 867-767-9107 ext. 40150