Qillulaaq Arngna’naaq, an Inuk mother living in Yellowknife is trying to remain positive despite the sudden changes to her birth plan.
She along with over 100 others from the Northwest Territories and western Nunavut are being sent to Edmonton to deliver their babies.
Qillulaaq Arngna’naaq lives a five-minute walk away from where she hoped to give birth to her first child.
But those plans have changed for her and over 100 expectant mothers from the Northwest Territories and western Nunavut being sent to Edmonton to deliver a baby.
“I thought I had all this extra time to get my house and myself all ready before I go. Now it’s like off you go get him some socks now, go get him some diapers right now,” Arngna’naaq said.
She’s over 36 weeks along, and after a complicated pregnancy, her specialist in Yellowknife had considered inducing her early.
But those plans may also change.
“Switching medical supports this close to due date is very jarring,” Arngna’naaq said. “This new doctor may have different views, maybe this person will feel a wait and see. So what if he’s two weeks late and I’m just in Edmonton for six weeks?”
Like many, Arngna’naaq first learned Stanton Territorial hospital was closing their obstetrics by way of social media.
“I was actually a little worried that I might induce early because I was so stressed out,” she said.
Arngna’naaq was planning to have her family in from Baker Lake, Nunavut but now she’ll travel alone.
Days after Nov. 22, when the territorial government announced the temporary closure of the obstetrics unit Arngna’naaq heard varying medical travel plans from various healthcare sources.
“I finally got a call from someone who had spoken to the Indigenous wellness facility in Edmonton and clarified that they wanted me to fly down earlier than planned,” Arngna’naaq said.
“But no one had communicated that so it was a solid 2-3 hours of blind panic talking to people who had no idea what was going on and me trying to figure out if I had to fly in a few days.”
The closure of birthing services at Stanton Territorial hospital will cost the GNWT an estimated $1,125,000 in transportation and accommodations alone.
In the N.W.T. legislature, Health Minister Julie Green noted there will be additional costs Alberta healthcare system will charge including factors such as complexity of birth.
Rylund Johnson, MLA for Yellowknife North probed the Health minister on the cost.
“I know it’s been reported for years that the OBS (obstetrics) has been asking for an additional staff person and there’s some debate about whether that’s needed,” Johnson said. “But I think this has proven that one closure is easily more than the cost of funding that staff position.”
Green responded that adding an extra shift worker position doesn’t mean the territory will be able to fill that position with the current high number of vacancies in the unit already.
“Hearing some of the background stories about what led up to this, it’s very disappointing they [GNWT] didn’t prevent it when they had the opportunity,” Arngna’naaq said.
The young mother has taken it upon herself to contribute to her local birthing community.
She is enrolled in Inuit-specific doula training for next year and has recently joined the steering committee for the Northern Birthwork Collective, an organization that offers support and services to parents.
In the meantime, she hopes the territorial government will step in and assist expectant families travelling to Edmonton.
“The GNWT has not given any indication on how they are going to help support families at this time,” Arngna’naaq said. “There needs to be more communication with patients around support because you can say you have support but they need to clarify what that actually is.”