‘At-risk’ mothers could be missed with new visitation plan

Some public health nurses are worried a change to post natal visitations will leave some mothers high and dry.

  • Oct. 27, 2011 7:00 p.m.

Some public health nurses are worried a change to post natal visitations will leave some mothers high and dry.

“There’s concerns up there (in Campbell River) that there’s going to be a lot of moms who would normally have been visited that aren’t going to be seen and could potentially fall through the cracks,” said chair of the Pacific Rim region of the British Columbia Nurses Union (BCNU) Jo Taylor.

The plan, called Nurse-Family Partnership, was announced by the Ministry of Health in June, and will provide intensive visits to ‘at-risk’ mothers – meaning low income first-time mothers under the age of 25 – during their pregnancy, and the visits will continue until the child turns two.

The visits will last about 75 to 90 minutes, and will happen on a weekly basis at first, lessening to monthly at the end.

Taylor is worried mothers who are not deemed ‘at-risk’ will be missed by the system, and she says there are many of these women in Campbell River.

“We’re on a bit of a baby boom where we’ve got a lot of younger people moving to the Campbell River area who are having babies,” said Taylor. “It’s going to have a huge impact on women who are over 25, who’ve had  multiple children, and then are not going to be the ones that get seen.”

Currently, all mothers have a visit from a public health nurse shortly after their baby is born, regardless of whether it’s their first baby, but when the new program is in effect in early 2012, the non at-risk mothers will only receive a phone call. Taylor said this won’t be enough.

“It’s a lot of visual, so they look at the environment as well,” said Taylor. “There’s all those things when they’re doing an assessment that you can’t see over the phone.

“You’re not going to build that rapport with that mom to be able to feel comfortable to giving information that maybe the nurse will be able to draw out in a face-to-face conversation.”

Current public health nurses will be trained specifically for this program. However, the BCNU recently learned that the public health nurses chosen for training will not be replaced in the system, and the government will not provide additional funding for the $23 million program.

“According to information provided to nurses by their managers, the government has ordered health authorities to find the money for the “Nurse-Family Partnership” from their already tight budgets,” said a news release from the BCNU.

According to Taylor, increased workload for nurses not in the program is another concern in Campbell River.

“The nurses there have been complaining about their workload and their biggest concern is how is this going to affect all of the clients within Campbell River,” said Taylor.

“The workload will impact onto the nurses left behind to run the rest of those programs and ultimately it’ll affect those patients or clients as well in those other programs.”

Public health nurses also hold breast feeding clinics, test for sexually transmitted diseases, treat newly-diagnosed HIV patients, do programs at schools, among other things.

Taylor said the BCNU plans to reach out to communities by asking concerned citizens to write to their local MLAs, the Ministry of Health, and Premier Christy Clark.

She also said the union may hold rallies at some point.