Campbellton obstetric services won't reopen soon, says head of Vitalité

·4 min read
Dr. France Desrosiers, Vitalité president and CEO, has agreed to meet with the northern New Brunswick mayors within a couple of weeks to discuss their concerns. (Radio-Canada - image credit)
Dr. France Desrosiers, Vitalité president and CEO, has agreed to meet with the northern New Brunswick mayors within a couple of weeks to discuss their concerns. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

Obstetric services at the Campbellton Regional Hospital will not be reopening any time soon, according to the head of the Vitalité Health Network, despite growing pressure from local politicians and citizens.

Vitalité "has always aimed" to resume delivering babies in Campbellton, said president and CEO Dr. France Desrosiers.

"However, this is not something that is going to happen on a short-term basis as we lack two family doctors, one to two surgeons or gynecologists and about [20] nurses specialized in obstetrics," she said in an emailed statement.

Earlier this week, a Campbellton woman called for the return of obstetric services at the local hospital and improved wildlife fencing along Highway 11 after she hit a moose on her way to Bathurst for the birth of her first grandchild early Saturday morning.

Amanda Johnson wouldn't have been travelling the highway, around 3 a.m., if her daughter Mallory Raymond had been able to have her baby at the Campbellton hospital.

Vitalité announced in April 2020 that obstetrical and pediatric services were being "temporarily interrupted" until further notice, because of a lack of pediatricians in northern New Brunswick and the absence of regular locum physicians due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, women in the Restigouche region have had to travel the roughly 100 kilometres to the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst to give birth.

Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada
Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada

Campbellton Mayor Ian Comeau attended Vitalité's annual general meeting Tuesday, intending to give the board an "earful."

Although Johnson walked away with minor cuts and bruises, "the region has been woken up," he had said, noting Johnson's daughter and her unborn child also could have been injured or even killed that night.

Comeau wasn't able to address the board during the meeting. Ten days advance notice is required to speak or ask any questions, he said.

I think it's more important to count the new births than to count people that die on our highways. - Ian Comeau, Campbellton mayor

But he had a "good discussion" with Desrosiers during a break.

"I said, I think it's more important to count the new births than to count people that die on our highways."

Desrosiers promised to meet with the northern New Brunswick mayors within a couple of weeks, he said, to discuss the lack of obstetric services at the Campbellton hospital and other health-care concerns.

Vitalité spokesperson Thomas Lizotte confirmed Wednesday that Desrosiers will indeed meet with the northern mayors "in the next couple weeks."

Desrosiers mentioned during the annual general meeting that, "It's really our vision to talk to our communities, to think together, to make choices together," Lizotte said in an emailed statement.

"We want to build solutions together."

The mayors are "due for an update of the different files. We want to present them with the status of our current resources," Desrosiers added.

Only delivery services are temporarily closed at the Campbellton hospital, noted Lizotte. Pre- and post-obstetrical services are still available within the facility, he said.

Amanda Johnson/Facebook
Amanda Johnson/Facebook

Comeau is "happy" about the pending meeting with Desrosiers.

"At least the eight mayors will be able to sit down with her and explain our concerns, see where their intentions are in regards to obstetrics."

Comeau wants to discuss the possibility of training other medical staff to handle deliveries at the Campbellton hospital.

"We have to talk about hours at night where maybe Ambulance New Brunswick could come in and do something."

Courtesy of Katherine Putt
Courtesy of Katherine Putt

Making the 100 kilometres drive between Campbellton and Bathurst, which he describes as "moose valley" is "not acceptable," he said.

"So I think she's going to come ready to listen."

The Restigouche Regional Service Commission is scheduled to meet Wednesday night and Comeau expects it will send Desrosiers a formal invitation.

Alleged discrimination

Campbellton-Dalhousie MP Guy Arseneault said he was upset by Johnson's accident and also finds the situation unacceptable.

"I think Vitalité owes us explanations why obstetrics is not reopened in Campbellton," he said.

He alleges the population has lost confidence in the administration of the health network.

"I sincerely believe that there is discrimination against the people of Restigouche, it is demonstrated by this accident, in two [points] — the fences against animals and also obstetrics," he said.

Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada
Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada

Campbellton city council discussed Johnson's accident, the loss of obstetric services and the need for improved wildlife fencing during its meeting Monday night, according to Comeau.

"The council is as concerned as I am, as the citizens. We want something done."

He has begun drafting letters to Premier Blaine Higgs and a couple of ministers, calling on them to address the issues, he said. Comeau plans to send the letters within a couple of days.

There is no fencing along a 40-kilometre stretch of a wooded area between Campbellton and Belledune, according to Comeau.

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