One of the newly renovated rooms in the Bulkley Valley District Hospital’s maternity ward. (Cassidy Muir)

One of the newly renovated rooms in the Bulkley Valley District Hospital’s maternity ward. (Cassidy Muir)

Mini Bulkley baby boom

Number of babies born to start summer 25 to 30 percent above normal for Smithers hospital.

With a recent influx of childbirth in the Bulkley Valley this summer, the new maternity ward at Bulkley Valley District Hospital is being put to good use.

“I can confirm that we’ve had a slight increase in the last couple of months in our birth rate. We typically average about 20 deliveries per month … I think [we] had 25 deliveries two months ago and 27 deliveries in the month of June. We don’t have July’s statistics yet. So that’s about 25 to 30 percent above normal,” said health service administrator Cormac Hikisch.

Director of care Sharon Dempsey said the number of babies born in Smithers per year over the past five years has averaged around 230.

“We are a small community, but larger communities have fewer babies than we do per population. Smithers has always been that way. It’s a community that attracts young families; people grow up, they leave Smithers, but many of them come back,” she said.

The Bulkley Valley District Hospital finished renovations on their maternity ward in the summer of last year, which Hikisch considers good timing.

Read more: Bulkley Valley charities deliver modern maternity ward

“Our newly renovated maternity ward … that the local Bulkley Valley Healthcare and Hospital Foundation fundraised for was completed last summer, so if nothing else the timing’s good for completing that community fundraiser and getting that renovation done.”

Dempsey said the ward was a much-needed addition.

“It was a project that took at least [two-and-a-half years] to complete … we had delivery suites and then we had post-partum wards, so a woman would come to hospital and have the delivery occur in one of our labour and delivery rooms, and then they would move to a post-partum ward where other moms and babies would share that space.

“It was very crowded, it was very noisy, so we locally fundraised and did a massive renovation to that unit of the hospital. Now we have private suites that the mom will come to for all stages of the perinatal process, so pre-labor, to labor and delivery, and post-partum care as well. There’s even space for family members … it’s totally a new and improved philosophy of patient [and family]-centred care,” said Dempsey.

With more children coming into the community, Northern Health will continue their search for a practicing pediatrician in Smithers, which Dempsey said is already one of their top priorities.

“We’ve been unsuccessful to date to find somebody. We have interviewed a few specialists who have chosen other locations to take their services to; such is the way with the specialty groups and small communities. We often struggle to provide that level of service across all areas. It’s supply and demand, there’s not enough to go around basically, and the decision lies with the professional on where they’re choosing to live and to work,” she said.

For now, Hikisch said the hospital sees the increase as good news for the community.

“It does mean for a busy maternity department, so our nurses are really busy, our doctors are busy delivering babies, but by and large it’s something to celebrate.”