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'Had I stayed at Surrey, my baby would have died': New mother details harrowing child birth


More horror stories are emerging from Surrey Memorial Hospital, as a series of public letters written by frontline staff continue to highlight the perils of staff shortages.

New mother Tanisha Duffill says she nearly lost her son Noah due to inadequate care at the hospital in November.

Duffill had initially planned to deliver at the family birthing unit using a midwife.

“I wanted to be in the hospital, I wanted to have medication if I needed it. I was going to try a natural birth if I could. But of course, it being my first baby, I wasn't sure if I could,” said Duffill.

She says she had pre-registered at the hospital, but was nervous because of local news stories about other mothers having bad experiences.

She went into labour on her due date and followed the instructions she had been given by the hospital to wait until her contractions were about three minutes apart before seeking treatment.

When she arrived at Surrey Memorial, however, she was told she wasn’t dilated enough, given medication and sent home.

“I remember saying to them at that time, ‘You know guys, like, something is wrong here. Something doesn't feel right,’” Duffill told CTV News.

About seven hours after leaving the hospital, she began to worry.

“My contractions became three minutes long and one minute apart and I was like, ‘That's really weird’,” she recalled.

She returned to the hospital and was brought back into triage.

“They sat me there and they were like, ‘OK, well, you know, we don't have a room for you right now. We're just gonna try to make you comfortable’,” Duffill said.

She says she asked for medication for the pain, but was told she couldn’t have any until she was admitted.

Duffill says she was scared and felt like she was being abandoned.

“I'm sitting in a triage area, and there are doctors and nurses around me, no one's really attending to me. Nobody's really making sure everything is okay. I haven't been physically checked,” she said.

She said they did check her baby’s heartbeat, but other than that, she sat and waited.

“It was awful. I actually started pleading for help. It hurt really bad,” said Duffill.

She said staff were apologetic, but told her it would likely be another nine hours before they could find her a room.

Duffill also said she was told that her blood pressure was getting dangerously high.

“They were like ‘Your liver seems to be shutting down, Tanisha.’ And I was like, ‘So why don't I have a room then if I'm in dire need?’” She questioned.

The mom-to-be says she was given the option to transfer to Burnaby Hospital where she could be admitted right away.

She says she was told it was her responsibility to make the journey on her own.

“I was very confused and I said to my husband, ‘But if my liver is shutting down, and I'm going have high blood pressure, why is it that we can make a 30-minute drive to Burnaby? With no one assessing if I'm okay?” Duffill said.

When the couple arrived, they were seen almost immediately.

“The OBGYN there checked me, I had nurses all around me, there was lots of staff there. And immediately they realized something was wrong,” Duffill said.

She said they began running tests and everytime she had a contraction, her baby’s heartbeat would drop rapidly.

“He was basically dying inside of me and they caught it right away,” she said.

Duffill required an emergency Caesarean section and was rushed to the operating room.

During the surgery, her medical team found a knot in the cord of her placenta.

“When I was laboring, the knot was getting tighter and it meant that the baby wasn't getting any oxygen. The only time they ever really diagnose a knot that tight is in a stillborn baby. So had I stayed at Surrey, my baby would have died,” said Duffill.

Months later, the reality of the situation she was put in is still hard for her to come to terms with.

“I fear for anyone that isn't that vocal and would have just trusted the system,” she said.

Earlier this week, dozens of obstetricians and gynecologists issued a letter saying the hospital was in crisis.

They say staffing shortages have led to an untold number of close calls and even the death of a newborn baby.

The group says patients often lack access to effective pain management and don't receive necessary privacy during or after childbirth.

Duffill says those claims don’t surprise her and she’s particularly concerned for mothers who cannot advocate for themselves the way she did.

“I only wonder if women that couldn't speak English that came here for help, would have to wait and God forbid something happens” she said.

Surrey Memorial was built to accommodate 4,000 births per year, but the average is now at 6,000.

Fraser Health declined to comment on the case but provided a statement saying anyone with concerns about their care should contact the health authority's Patient Care Quality Office.

"Delivering a baby should be a life-changing, joyous occasion and we are sorry to hear about this person's experience while receiving care at one of our sites," a spokesperson wrote in an email. Top Stories

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