Surrey woman gives birth in hospital lobby after she says staff turned her away

EXCLUSIVE: A pregnant woman in Surrey says she was sent away from the hospital three times in one day. On her fourth visit, she says she had the baby on Surrey Memorial’s hospital floor. Ashley Burr reports.


A woman in Surrey says she was sent home from the hospital three times in one day. On the fourth visit, she ended up having her baby on the floor of the lobby of Surrey Memorial Hospital.

“She was in pain sitting and kept on waiting, waiting, waiting,” Pawandeep Samra’s husband Gagandeep Singh Bandhan says when he thinks back on Dec. 25.

The first time the couple went to the hospital they were sent back home after being monitored for about two hours.

But they went back again because Samra was in severe pain.

“We went the second time then they gave her the pain killer and then again the same thing — waiting for like two, three hours. Then we went back home again,” Bandhan says.

“Then we went there another time.”

On the fourth try, Samra’s water broke during the car ride to the hospital.

The two got out of the car near the birth unit lobby where Samra explains, she “bent over … holding my baby right there.”

“There was a female security guard from our community, I waved her and asked her to call some doctor or nurse because I already delivered my baby. I don’t know whether she understood or not. She brought a wheelchair for me.”

After her delivery in the lobby, Bandhan says staff came by with a stretcher.

“I was sort of freaked out,” he says. “They were freaked out too. Like they were closing their eyes and everything.”

“The entire delivery was there at the main gate.”

Samra and Bandhan say their baby is healthy and doing fine.

Dr. Darren Lazare is the Fraser Health Authority’s regional department head for its mother, infant, child, youth program. He told OMNI Thursday that while he could not speak directly about Samra’s case because of patient confidentiality, he understands how ‘traumatic’ and ‘disturbing’ the couple’s experience may have been.

“Labour and delivery can be unpredictable. It’s one of the scariest and also one of the most challenging parts of looking after women in labour. And so the teams work extremely hard, and are highly trained to look after our patients and to provide timely and safe care,” he says.

“In situations, particularly with patients who maybe have had a baby before, labour can sometimes progress quite rapidly. And you may go from being a few centimetres dilated to fully dilated and ready to deliver in a very short period of time. Sometimes that’s not the case and it takes a long time to progress throughout your labour. So, I think that’s the challenge of looking after our obstetric population — is the unpredictability of it.”

Fraser Health has also provided an emailed statement.

“While each case is unique, in general, when a pregnant person presents to the hospital in labour, they are first assessed by a nurse with expertise in taking care of pregnant individuals and are then assessed by an obstetrical care provider,” it reads.

“If they are clinically assessed to be in early labour, they may be asked to return home so they can rest and have access to their own home comforts. They are provided with clear instructions on when to return as their labour symptoms progress.”

In rare cases, Fraser Health says the labour and delivery process might escalate suddenly and without warning. In this case, a spokesperson says their first priority is to make sure the patient and the baby are as healthy and well-adjusted as possible.

As the health-care sector continues to bare the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lazare admits that all hospital units are strained.

“We’re all dealing with challenges within the pandemic, particularly with Omicron ripping through our community. It’s very challenging, and it affects the patients, it affects our care providers, including the nurses, the physicians, the midwives. I think we’re challenged — as every unit, as every hospital is — to make sure that we do have adequate staffing.”

Lazare says on behalf of the Fraser Health authority, “I offer my sincere apologies to our patient who had this experience.”

Fraser Health has confirmed they have reached out to Samra and Bandhan to directly hear their concerns.

‘The bottom line is mothers need to be listened to’

Carly Bonderud is a childbirth educator and says she is “unfortunately” not surprised by Samra’s story since this kind of experience happens far too often.

In her work for almost a decade now, Bonderud says women are not being listened to.

She says health care workers either intervene too much or not enough. In both scenarios, “the bottom line is mothers need to be listened to — and that’s not happening.”

While Bonderud encourages mothers and their partners to educate themselves as much as possible — even before getting pregnant — she adds, health care staff ultimately have the responsibility to provide the care these patients deserve.

“It should be on the staff. The staff should be thinking, ‘we need to listen to our clients.'”

However, she says the power imbalance in the doctor-patient relationship can make expectant parents reluctant to speak up and physicians less likely to listen if they do.

“We’ve grown up with ‘they’re going to take care of us.’ And the doctors have been trained with ‘We control everything. We take care of you,'” she explains. But when giving birth she emphasizes that “it’s more intuitive … we actually are more intuitive in knowing what our bodies need. And that’s an aspect that’s just not being listened to.

“It happens in all areas of healthcare. But birth is really ignored because we also have that cultural context.”

On a regular basis, Bonderud says she sees parents trying to ask questions but are shut down by people telling them, “just ask your doctor.”

However, stigma can cloud health care workers’ judgment she says.

“It comes down to again, trusting yourself.”

CityNews has reached out to Fraser Health for comment.

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