Quebec health minister promises changes after woman gives birth in car

Quebec’s health care network will change its policies after a pregnant woman was forced to transfer hospitals last week and delivered her baby in a car, Health Minister Danielle McCann said Monday.

Angelique Lauzier and her partner went to their local hospital in La Malbaie, in Quebec’s Charlevoix region, when she began experiencing irregular contractions. But the couple was told to drive almost two hours south to Quebec City because the obstetrics unit had been temporarily closed due to a staff shortage.

Lauzier gave birth about 15 minutes from their destination, her partner told a local radio station. In response, McCann told reporters from now on, an ambulance will be used to transfer pregnant women who are near giving birth.

READ MORE: Woman gives birth on B.C. highway with help of teen daughter

Lauzier’s partner, Jean-Francois Dandurand, told radio station 98.5 FM his spouse’s contractions intensified soon after they left La Malbaie, and her water broke midway through the late-night journey.

“I had no choice but to (keep going),” he told the station. ”I tried to help my partner as much as I could, and on the other hand I tried to concentrate on the road.”

He said the mother and baby are doing well, but he feels the hospital should have offered the family more support. “She was at 40 weeks and two days (pregnant), so the birth was imminent,” he said. ”It seems to me that an ambulance should have simply been a priority.”

McCann told a news conference in Montreal that when women are close to giving birth and need to change hospitals, “it’s very important that there’s an ambulance to accompany them.”

The temporary closure of La Malbaie’s birthing services reflects a province-wide problem of labour shortages. Hospitals across Quebec are struggling to recruit personnel.

On Monday, thousands of Quebec nurses refused to work mandatory overtime during a one-day job action to highlight working conditions they say have led to burnout and compromised patient care.

Annie Ouellet, a spokeswoman for the regional health centre that includes the La Malbaie hospital, said labour shortages are especially acute in the regions.

READ MORE: Kids rescue elderly woman who fell, was left lying outside home for 10 hours

She said the hospital had no choice but to close its birthing ward for five days due to a lack of specialized nurses. The centre is scheduled to reopen Monday at midnight.

“Currently, we are looking for five obstetrician nurses at La Malbaie hospital as well as nearly 40 nurses to work in Charlevoix (region),” she said in a phone interview.

Ouellet said the health system is doing everything it can to meet the shortage, including recruiting abroad, calling back nurses from retirement and offering to retrain any nurses who are interested in obstetrics.

She confirmed that any pregnant women who need to be transferred to Quebec City in the future will be taken by ambulance.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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