Earlier discharge for new Ottawa moms is linked to the closure of birthing in Renfrew, puts newborns potentially at risk

OTTAWA, March 27, 2014 /CNW/ - The announcement last week that Ottawa moms will be discharged within 24 hours of delivering a baby is directly linked to the closure of the birthing unit at Renfrew hospital and may compromise neonatal well-being, the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE charged today.

The regional changes in post-natal care, which sees the Ottawa Hospital shortening maternal stays from 48 hours to 24 hours and the impending June closure of birthing and obstetrics at the Renfrew hospital, "has little to do with good evidence - based health policy and better outcomes for moms and babies. Rather the head of obstetrics at the Ottawa Hospital has said frankly that the shorter stays for moms and babies are related to budget cost-cutting," says Michael Hurley the president of the OCHU. 

In a 2007 policy statement on post-partum maternal and newborn discharge, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) says:

"Early discharge from hospital postnatally increases the risk of neonatal mortality and morbidity….The neonate who is discharged at less than 48 hours is at greater risk than the mother." The SOGC's statement references to a large Washington study of neonatal mortality, which examined 47,879 births between 1989 and 1990. During this period, 9101 newborns were discharged before 30 hours of age. "This group of newborns was found to have a significantly higher mortality rate in the first year of life than those newborns that stayed in hospital longer," says the SOGC statement.

Citing another study, this time at the Children's Hospital of Western Ontario (now called the Children's Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre ) that reviewed emergency room (ER) visits by newborns under nine days old, SOGC states that ER visits "were significantly more common among mother and newborn pairs discharged early. "Early discharge was defined as less than 36 hours. The readmission rate for those seen in ER was 33 per cent. The Ottawa hospital is proposing to shorten post-partum stays to 24 hours, 12 less than the 36 hours considered "early discharge" in the London children's hospital study.

Ottawa moms and babies won't receive meaningful in-hospital care and breastfeeding support following delivery and will be forced to go to a walk-in clinic in Nepean should they have complications post-birthing.  Renfrew moms will have to travel to a larger centre like Ottawa to receive pre-natal and post-natal care.

"Ontario's hospitals are the most efficient in Canada, measured by beds to population, staff to beds and lengths of stay. There is no room for further cuts in these hospitals. Hospitals are responding to a 5-year funding freeze with cuts to medically necessary services. Surely Ottawa has enough Liberal Cabinet Ministers at Queen's Park to mount a defense of its mothers and newborns" says Hurley.

The SOGC policy statement can be found at:
http://sogc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/190E-PS-April2007.pdf

SOURCE Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (CUPE)

For further information: Michael Hurley, President Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), 416.884.0770; Stella Yeadon, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE/OCHU) Communications, 416.559.9300