It’s no secret that our community is growing, and that the fastest growing population is now the younger generation.
This is great news for our economy and our future but produces different requirements for services.
One of the services that the younger generation cannot live without is maternity care.
When I first moved to the Okanagan 26 years ago, I was seven months pregnant with my first baby.
Finding a doctor back then was easy, and my delivery went smoothly.
We moved a year and a bit later to Kelowna, and I was pregnant again with my second baby.
After finding a doctor, he suffered a terrible accident, and I was left without one.
Panic set in.
How could I be six months pregnant without a doctor to deliver? I called many doctors, but none would take a pregnant woman. It was only through a friend’s referral that I was able to have someone take me.
And now it is even worse.
It was shocking to read the letter from the Central Okanagan Division of Family Practice as they warned local doctors of the shrinking pool of obstetrics physicians in the city.
Next year, we are going down from 13 to 11 — all while our population is going up.
We know that over the past few years, our healthcare system has been struggling but this decrease from 13 to just 11 is worrisome as it directly impacts the availability and quality of maternity care that we can provide to our burgeoning population.
The challenge becomes even more urgent when we consider the recent loss of maternity care in Kamloops.
Those physicians were delivering between 60-100 babies per month!
With this unfortunate closure, Kamloops' expectant mothers now need to travel to other cities for their prenatal and childbirth needs. Their options include Kelowna, already straining under increased demand, and Prince George, which is far from ideal due to the distance involved.
This places an immense burden on our local healthcare infrastructure and, more critically, on the expectant mothers who are now faced with the stress of long-distance travel for essential services. It is not just an inconvenience, but a matter of wellbeing and safety for the mothers and their newborns.
Moreover — for many women in our region — they will have to be referred to the South Okanagan Maternity Centre in Penticton for care.
While the centre provides excellent care, it is also not an ideal solution. Expectant mothers shouldn't have to travel such long distances to receive the care they need.
The Minister of Health has not given any plan of action to address the situation in Kamloops nor in Kelowna. This is unacceptable.
And truthfully, it is already too late. Women who are expecting are already being referred to Penticton.
Kelowna should have comprehensive, high-quality maternity care right here in our city.
Our community deserves to have these services readily available, and our healthcare workers deserve the support required to deliver these services effectively.
It is high time for us to prioritize and invest in strengthening our maternity care infrastructure in Kelowna, for the well-being of our present community and the generations to come.
My question to you is this:
What should be done to protect maternity care in Kelowna?
I love hearing from you!
Please email me at Renee.Merrifield.MLA@leg.bc.ca or call my office at 250-712-3620.