Canada's Expectant Moms Heading to U.S. to Deliver
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
By Sara Bonisteel
Mothers in British Columbia are having a baby boom, but it's the United States that has to deliver, and that has some proud Canadians blasting their highly touted government healthcare system.
"I'm a born-bred Canadian, as well as my daughter and son, and I'm ashamed," Jill Irvine told FOX News. Irvine's daughter, Carri Ash, is one of at least 40 mothers or their babies who've been airlifted from British Columbia to the U.S. this year because Canadian hospitals didn't have room for the preemies in their neonatal units.
"It's a big number and bigger than the previous capacity of the system to deal with it," said Adrian Dix, a British Columbia legislator, told FOXNews.com. "So when that happens, you can't have a waiting list for a mother having the baby. She just has the baby.
The mothers have been flown to hospitals in Seattle, Everett, Wash., and Spokane, Wash., to receive treatment, as well as hospitals in the neighboring province of Alberta, Dix said. Three mothers were airlifted in the first weekend of October alone, including Carri Ash.
"I just want to go home and see my kids," she said from her Seattle hospital bed. "I think it's stupid I have to be here."
Canada's socialized health care system, hailed as a model by Michael Moore in his documentary, "Sicko," is hurting, government officials admit, citing not enough money for more equipment and staff to handle high risk births.
Sarah Plank, a spokeswoman for the British Columbia Ministry of Health, said a spike in high risk and premature births coupled with the lack of trained nurses prompted the surge in mothers heading across the border for better care.
"The number of transfers in previous years has been quite low," Plank told FOXNews.com. "Before this recent spike we went for more than a year with no transfers to the U.S., so this is something that is happening in other provinces as well."
Critics say these border crossings highlight the dangers of a government-run health care system.
"The Canadian healthcare system has used the United States as a safety net for years," said Michael Turner of the Cato Institute. "In fact, overall about one out of every seven Canadian physicians sends someone to the United States every year for treatment."
Neonatal intensive care units in Alberta and Ontario have also been stretched to capacity, she said.
The cost of these airlifts and treatments, paid to U.S. hospitals by the province under Canada's universal health care system, runs upwards of $1,000 a child.
"We clearly want to see more capacity built in the Canadian system because it’s also expensive for taxpayers here to send people out of the country," Dix said.
The surge could be due to women giving birth later in life, and passport restrictions and family separation adds to the stress.
"I think it’s reasonable to think that this is a trend that would continue and we have to prepare for it and increase the number of beds to deal with perhaps the new reality of the number of premature babies and newborns needing a higher level of care in Canada," Dix said.
British Columbia has added more neonatal beds and increased funding for specialized nurse training, Plank said.
"There is an identified need for some additional capacity just due to population growth and that sort of thing and that is actively being implemented," she said.
FOX News' Dan Springer contributed to this report.
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