Prenatal care becomes easier to find for Fredericton women without family doctors
A family doctor shortage in New Brunswick meant long waits or jumping through hoops for pregnant women needing prenatal care.
But prenatal care is urgent, says Dr. Erica Frecker, head of obstetrics and gynecology at Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton, and that's why the hospital is starting a clinic for pregnant women who don't have a primary care provider.
"If someone's pregnant and having complications, it's very upsetting and they need answers about what's going on," she said.
The program will begin as a six-month pilot starting on June 5.
Until now, Frecker said, pregnant people would be calling to be put on a prenatal roster list — a list of family doctors willing to take pregnant patients — or would have to get care through walk-in clinics.
Sometimes, people would wait for hours in an emergency room to get basic prenatal care.
As the number of available family doctors decreased in the city, the number of people needing prenatal care increased, so the department of family medicine asked for help, Frecker said.
Then the obstetrics department came into play.
"Our department said that we would provide this care as part of a pilot project until the primary care practitioners could organize a way of providing that care that works."
Frecker said anyone who has had a positive pregnancy test can call the number for the program at the hospital, and someone will give them an appointment with an obstetrician within a week.
She said she doesn't expect anyone to need to wait long for an appointment because there's a specific timeframe for recommended prenatal appointments.
For example, Frecker said, routine pregnancy care, including blood pressure and growth monitoring, is important for the safety of the baby.
Frecker said a lot of blood work and testing is time-sensitive and before this clinic, some people couldn't get the testing done because of long delays.
Not for people with family doctors
The program is only in Fredericton for now.
While this is likely an issue that affects all of New Brunswick, Frecker said, there are a "limited number of providers here in Fredericton, which was causing that sort of unmanageable volume."
The program will be staffed by a pool of nurses currently working in maternity care and 10 obstetricians, who will take turns in the clinic, said Frecker. Everyone in the department volunteered to take part, she said.
Frecker said if someone already has a family doctor or primary care provider, the clinic will not be an option for them. But she said if someone's family doctor was on maternity leave or sick for an extended period of time, special arrangements could likely be made.
"But we really want to save these clinic spots for people that have no other options," she said.