Back to birthing
Fort Smith midwife developing proposal to bring birthing back to Fort Smith

NDarren Campbellorthern News Services

NNSL (Sep 07/98) - Lesley Paulette wants to bring more birthing back to Fort Smith.

That's why the registered midwife is working on an action plan that would incorporate midwives into obstetrics care in Fort Smith and allow more women there to deliver their babies at home.

Paulette said the time around the birth of a child and the actual birth itself are important times for the mother and the family.

She said when a women has to move away from Fort Smith to either Hay River or Yellowknife to have their baby it creates undue stress on the family.

"It causes a lot of disruption to family life and removes birthing from the community," said Paulette. "There is a negative impact when birthing is no longer a normal part of life."

But that negative impact would be eliminated if more babies were born in Fort Smith. Paulette said she is only looking at delivering low-risk pregnancies in the community.

Thebacha MLA Michael Miltenberger said he is supporting Paulette's efforts.

Miltenberger said he also feels families are missing out on one of the biggest events of a lifetime when they can't be there for the birth of a child.

"What personally made the point for me was when my daughter had to come up to Yellowknife and had to live there for 10 days and we missed out (on the birth of her child)," said Miltenberger.

Beyond the personal reasons, Miltenberger said it is costly to send people out of the community to have their babies delivered. With about 40 babies being born a year in Fort Smith, he said it is costing taxpayers about $200,000 a year to send patients out of Fort Smith when at least half of those could be done at the local hospital.

Brent Woodford, chief executive officer at the Fort Smith Health Centre, said the hospital is doing low-risk pregnancies right now. However, only six babies have been delivered there in 1998.

He said if a pregnant mother decides she doesn't want to leave Fort Smith to have her baby, she is assessed by the medical staff. If they determine the pregnancy is low risk enough, then the delivery is done in Fort Smith.

However, because the health centre has only recently gotten back into delivering babies, Woodford said many people in Fort Smith don't know it is available.

But he is favour of developing a plan where doctors, midwives and nursing staff in the town work together on how babies should be delivered in the community.

Paulette said if the health centre can include midwives into their obstetrics service they can provide continuity to that service.

She pointed out that doctors in the North are hard to recruit and keep. And those that the communities do recruit may not want to deliver babies. However, if midwives are part of that team, residents can be sure they will have someone qualified to do it.

"If you hire a midwife you can be sure that is what she is going to do," said Paulette.