February 4, 2014
RVH cites manpower challenges, drop in births in closure of Obstetrics Unit
At a Town Hall meeting on Tuesday February 4, it was announced that Renfrew Victoria Hospital will close its Obstetrics Unit on June 30, 2014. Chief of Staff Dr. Steve Radke told RVH staff that several factors led to the decision, including a lack of physician manpower, a decline in births at the hospital in recent years, and changing patient demographics.
RVH has provided obstetrics services for low-risk deliveries throughout its history, but Renfrew County now has the highest proportion of seniors in the Champlain Local Health Integration Network. This upward trend in the number of seniors has been projected to continue while the number of younger people has been projected to decrease.
The shift in demographics is reflected in a drop in the Obstetrics Unit deliveries over the years—going from 123 in 2006–2007 to only 58 in 2011–2012.
“We are sad to be closing the unit but, after factoring in all the issues involved, it is ultimately the best course of action for RVH’s patients and for physicians,” Radke said.
The decline in births at RVH coincides with a shortage of obstetrics-trained physicians. Three physicians who currently provide rotating services in the Obstetrics Unit have chosen to discontinue obstetrical services in the coming months.
“Despite the successful recruitment efforts of Renfrew and Area Health Services Village and RVH, the reduced number of graduating family physicians with training and an interest in obstetrics makes it very difficult to recruit for the program,” stated Radke. “In Renfrew, one of the last nine physicians has been interested in practising obstetrics, which is indicative of training program trends.”
RVH’s Medical Advisory Committee discussed these issues at a special meeting, Radke said. “After much review, debate and discussion, we regretfully put forward the recommendation that the Board consider closing the Obstetrics Program.”
Four hospitals—The Ottawa Hospital, Almonte, Queensway Carleton, and Pembroke—provide obstetrics services in this area. “Expectant mothers can work with their local physicians to choose their best care option,” said Dr. Stephanie Langlois, adding “many physicians offer ‘shared care,’ which allows patients to continue seeing their local GP until late in their pregnancies when they go to an obstetrics specialist.”
“While the OBS numbers are low, we will continue to work with this population and our GPs to ensure that services are coordinated and available,” said Chris Ferguson, RVH Vice President of Patient Care Services. Ferguson noted that in the last year, 67% of expectant mothers left Renfrew for services elsewhere. She also confirmed that RVH would establish policies and protocols for emergency delivery situations.
“The provision of obstetrical services has been and remains a very significant challenge in a small, rural setting like Renfrew. Our staff and physicians have done a wonderful job over the years. To all of them, I would say thank you for a job well done. You should be very proud of your accomplishments. With that having been said, the model in a rural setting requires adequate manpower and volumes to support clinical competency for both GPs and RNs. Our own analysis indicates a continuing downward trend in demand for this service. This is not a financial decision. Our organization needs to reflect the needs of our population and our population is aging in a very significant way,” said Randy Penney, President and CEO of RVH.
Andy Boldt, Chair of the RVH Board, said: “This was a difficult decision. After exploring all of the issues and searching for sustainable solutions, planning for the closure of the obstetrics unit is the right thing to do.”
For further information, RVH invites the public to attend a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday February 5, in the RVH cafeteria.
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