'An amazing reversal': Fraser Health flip flops on decision to temporarily close Peace Arch Hospital's maternity ward

After a week of uncertainty, there was some good news for expectant moms in the White Rock/South Surrey area Thursday.

Fraser Health has flip flopped on its decision to temporarily close the maternity ward at Peace Arch Hospital.

In a statement, the health authority says: “Significant new scheduling commitments from the pediatric group at Peace Arch Hospital and commitments from other provider partners ensure that expectant individuals who have pre-existing plans to deliver their babies at the hospital will be able to see those plans through.”

Fraser Health says the maternity ward will still face sporadic, single-day diversions of expectant moms to Langley Memorial.

The announcement came as dozens of people rallied outside Peace Arch Hospital Thursday to protest the previously announced closure that was to begin next week and expected to last for months.

“We can go back to looking forward to having our baby … an amazing reversal,” said Savannah Walsh, who is expecting her sixth child 10 weeks from now.

“We’re absolutely overwhelmed with the power of community. I’m still shocked,” she said.

Before the change of plans by Fraser Health, Walsh had told CTV News the plan to divert patients left her scared.

“I have quick births,” she said. “We have such a good chance of me giving birth on the side of the road. This is absolutely petrifying for me.”

Fraser Health previously said it would close the maternity ward because of challenges in finding pediatric coverage, stating that it can be challenging to recruit pediatricians to work in smaller hospitals like Peace Arch.

But Dr. Sarah Fung, an obstetrician at the hospital, says the problem has been a lack of leadership from Fraser Health to recruit and retain pediatricians.

She also told CTV News that the anticipated closure had left her worried about patients.

“It’s not acceptable for a pregnant patient in an emergency to have to travel 30 to 45 minutes to a different hospital. And it’s only a matter of time before a woman in labour arrives at emergency at Peace Arch and they don’t have access to a specialized care team,” the doctor explained.

Critics say it’s a problem that should have been fixed long before it got to this point.

“This is something that’s been flagged a number of years ago to try and get recruitment out here of pediatricians and this government has not made it a priority,” said Trevor Halford, the Liberal MLA for Surrey-White Rock, who was at the rally.

Also taking part in the rally was Jennie Lucow, a registered midwife.

“All of our time has been spent trying to talk to clients who are terrified. They have no idea what’s going to happen,” she said Thursday morning, before Fraser Health reversed its decision.

Fraser Health also says an alternative payment model to support pediatric recruitment has now been implemented.

“We have also expanded our services to support a Pediatric Rapid Access Clinic at Peace Arch Hospital,” the health authority says in a statement.