June 10th, 2024

New data shows increasing number of infants without a family doctor

HALIFAX -Troubling new data shows that the number of newborns referred to Unattached Newborn Clinics (UNCs) is on the rise. Nearly 16 per cent of registered births in Nova Scotia last year were referred to a UNC. These clinics care for babies who do not have a family doctor or primary care provider.

“Nova Scotian families need to be attached to primary care, especially new parents and babies,” said NSNDP leader Claudia Chender. “Nova Scotians deserve to be able to raise their families here with the knowledge that their children will be safe and well cared for.”

According to a Freedom of Information request by the NSNDP Caucus, 941 of the 5,922 babies born in 2023 were referred to UNCs. Since UNCs were launched in December 2022, the number of new referrals has steadily increased each quarter.

CJ Blennerhassett, the Vice-President of the Association of Nova Scotia Midwives, said midwives can be part of the solution, and increasing midwifery services can help fill the gaps in Nova Scotia’s primary health care system.

“When newborns don’t have attachment to a primary care provider, we see worse outcomes for the baby, and also for the family as a whole. We see less rates of routine vaccinations, we see increasing emergency room use or use of acute care facilities, and we see people just really going without care,” said Blennerhassett. “What would help is utilizing midwives more in the provision of postpartum care for all patients across our system. We really are eager and excited to play this role in our health care system and we are underutilized in this way.”

The NSNDP has called for the midwifery program to be expanded across Nova Scotia and for the Houston government to do more to ensure all Nova Scotians have a primary care provider or clinic to follow their health care needs.

“It is unacceptable that there is an increasing number of infants who aren’t attached to a family physician or nurse practitioner. Under the Houston government, this problem is getting worse, not better,” said NSNDP Health Spokesperson Susan Leblanc. “Everyone deserves access to primary care. Newborns especially need to be attached to a health-care provider who can monitor their health and development.”