A Manitoba mother is scrambling to figure out a solution after learning she’ll have to travel nearly 700 kilometres to deliver her baby in November.
Kassandra Mckay is scheduled to have a C-section to deliver her third child on Nov. 28. The Thompson, Man., woman was hoping to be able to have the delivery at her local hospital, as she did with her first two children.
However, in June, the Northern Regional Health Authority announced faulty air conditioners on the building’s roof led to “significant water damage” in three of the hospital’s four operating theatres.
Mckay was three months pregnant when she heard the news.
“I was nervous I’d be impacted,” she said.
The damage has meant that as of August, a total of 138 elective surgeries had been diverted from Thompson to Flin Flon, The Pas or Winnipeg. More than half have been completed, said Glenn Hildebrand, a spokesperson for the Northern Regional Health Authority.
He told CBC News the construction is on track, and estimated to be completed before the end of the year.
But that’s not soon enough for Mckay.
She’ll need to find child care for her two biological children and her foster child, plus take maternity leave early because doctors have told her she needs to go to Winnipeg — more than 650 kilometres south — for a C-section.
“Initially I was mad and overwhelmed, because I have three children already to raise. My partner is off doing his Canadian Armed Forces training, so it’s not like I have his support right now,” she said.
Mckay has a few options, but none of the scenarios meet all of her family’s needs.
She could take a bus to Winnipeg and fly home with the new baby, or she could drive herself both ways — about a 14-hour drive in total.
Mckay was told the Northern Patient Transportation Program subsidy will reimburse her for gas expenses or pay for one flight. She doesn’t feel comfortable taking a bus while pregnant.
“For me to be told that, not only do I have to leave Thompson, I have to leave Thompson around 36 weeks [pregnant] just to sit around Winnipeg and wait for my C-section. That means two weeks, possibly three weeks away from my children, which I’ve never been away from them for that long,” she said.
She could bring her children to Winnipeg with her, or try to find someone else to look after them in Thompson while she’s away. Either way, Mckay says it’s a costly choice.
Taking them out of school and daycare to go to Winnipeg would be challenging, too.
“If I brought them with me, that’d be missed school or missed daycare that I’d still have to pay for,” she said.
Finances are something Mckay is worried about, because she won’t be able to work right up until the date of her surgery.
“With maternity leave, you only get 55 per cent of your income, and that’s if you claim 12 months. Not only do I have to pay for my bills back home, but now I have to save up to be able to afford the gas, the food, and everything else that comes with being in the city,” she said.
“It will be reimbursed [by Manitoba Health] when I come back, but initially I have to have that ready, and this is on a much lower income.”
‘Such a burden’
While the health region is making the best of a difficult situation, Mckay wonders why Thompson — a northern hub city with a population of about 13,000 — isn’t better equipped to deal with these problems.
“I don’t understand why we, as the hub of the north, can’t keep up or can’t have better health care and supplies here, when we also provide to our surrounding communities,” she said.
“To me, this seems like such a burden for the women that have to go through that. For me to have to go through that myself, it makes me feel even worse for those women.”