The last thing expectant mom Sarah Brayshaw wanted was to have her baby in the back of an ambulance on the side of the road.
As her contractions became closer together on the way from Penticton to Vernon, Brayshaw was worried that was exactly what was going to happen.
“It was terrifying,” Brayshaw said. “It was really scary.”
Brayshaw and father of Cricket Piper Pelletier, Allen Pelletier, are hoping they are the last to fall through what Interior Health called “coverage issues” when it comes to Penticton paediatricians.
“A young mother shouldn’t have to give birth two hours away in a town of this size,” Pelletier said.
Brayshaw started having Braxton Hicks contractions, for the third time, but was visiting the hospital for the regularly scheduled check-up when she began the early stages of going into labour.
“I go there and it turns out my water had broke,” Brayshaw said.
Brayshaw’s doctor eventually entered the room and she was informed “it’s a bad day to have a baby in Penticton.”
“He said there were no paediatricians available in Penticton until Wednesday … it was Monday,” she said.
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Brayshaw started having contractions sometime after noon, however she was not yet in full labour, and around 3 p.m. they were informed they may be going to Kelowna.
“Which I didn’t mind because they’ve got a brand new maternity ward. The travelling — I wasn’t in full labour, it would have been comfortable. We could have driven ourselves,” Brayshaw said.
At 5 p.m. their doctor informed the couple Kelowna was full and after some frantic phone calls, it was determined the couple would be heading to Vernon. Her contractions now five minutes apart, Brayshaw was strapped into the back of an ambulance and on her way From Penticton to Vernon with Pelletier in the front seat. The ambulance driver had worked the maximum amount of overtime and switched with another driver in Summerland, where Pelletier got in the back with Brayshaw.
“I was worried we were going to give birth on the side of a highway, with no proper obstetrician, paediatrician or any equipment whatsoever, so that was our worry,” Pelletier said. “Never mind the fact that they’re completely stressing out Sarah and myself. Birth is supposed to usually be as stress free as a time as it can be. A baby born into stress is a stressful baby.”
After a two-hour ambulance ride, the story does conclude with a perfect delivery and a happy, healthy baby Cricket. Thankfully there were no complications on the ride, Brayshaw said.
“We got to Vernon and it was awesome,” Brayshaw said. “Right away, they understood, they were supportive. They gave them the low-down when we got there what had happened. So they already knew mentally I was not doing very well.”
“It does have a happy ending,” Pelletier said. “The staff was great, Interior Health had set them up for failure. There’s nothing (the doctor) could do to make it better. He was trying to do all he could do which was get us the hell out of Penticton. The staff was really, really great. I cannot stress that enough.”
According to Carl Meadows, Health Service Administrator for South Okanagan Acute Hospitals, the last time the Penticton hospital had to implement what they call a “diversion strategy” was in 2011.
One paediatrician had pursued employment elsewhere and another was on temporary leave at the time of Cricket’s birth on Oct. 18.
“We had some coverage issues in October so we were able to actually perform some low-risk deliveries in Penticton without a paediatrician, however, unfortunately some expectant mothers were diverted to Kelowna or Vernon,” Meadows said.
The return of the paediatrician on leave and the current recruitment of another puts Penticton back at a full complement of four.
“We’re actively recruiting right now, we’re actually interviewing for one of our paediatrician positions and we expect to be fully up and running with no issues, right now, in November,” Meadows said. “As much as it was an inconvenience to the family, and I recognize that, I also recognize we could have probably communicated better to the family, but it was actually a focus on their health and welfare and the health and welfare of the baby that they actually got diverted.”
Pelletier and Brayshaw are thankful to the staff and doctors who helped the safe delivery, however, they had some difficulties finding a family doctor at the start of the pregnancy and faced some barriers finding accessible healthcare. Brayshaw said she had approximately 13 different doctors throughout the pregnancy.
The Patient Care Tower, currently under construction, is planned to house the primary care maternity clinic and the paediatric outpatients and Meadows said it will be an attraction to doctors looking to work in the community.
“The good news is with state-of-the-art facilities in a given location that actually tends to help us recruit specialists to our community in general. So we think that it’s going to be very exciting,” Meadows said.
Improving access to healthcare has previously been identified by Interior Health as one of their main goals moving forward.