September 17 marks World Patient Safety Day, a day which “calls for global solidarity and concerted action by all countries and international partners to improve patient safety.” This year, the theme is safe maternal and newborn care — an essential conversation, as the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 6,700 newborns die every day, while 810 parents die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, with 94% of those deaths occurring in low and lower-middle income countries.
Those numbers do not include infants and parents who survive, but suffer lasting ramifications from improper care
These heartbreaking cases do occur in Canada and B.C. as well. A 2017 report from Statistics Canada reveals that infant mortality rates for Indigenous newborns were more than double that of the non-Indigenous population. The also shows that First Nations and Inuit death rates from sudden infant death syndrome (“a sudden and unexpected death of an apparently healthy infant younger than age 1”) were seven times higher than that of the non-Indigenous population.
Recent news stories exemplify the alleged improper care received at healthcare facilities in British Columbia:
- Actions of racist nurse during childbirth contributed to son’s brain injuries, Nisga’a woman says
- Sent home from B.C. hospital while in early labour, new mom says she gave birth in her bathroom
- Haisla woman and partner sue B.C.’s Northern Health after baby’s death, alleging racism
These issues are deep-rooted and, in many cases, systemic. Addressing them will require extensive work on the part of healthcare providers and governments, but it is essential that this work begins right away. The WHO provides some key facts and suggestions on where to begin, and how to work towards a safe and respectful childbirth.
This illustration by Celina Koops is part of CHASI’s ongoing series acknowledging some of the significant annual observances that align with our core values. To learn more and see the other illustrations in this series, please visit our observances page.