Could you imagine having your baby 10 weeks early, it has to be airlifted to a hospital in another country and you can’t be there with them because of a passport issue?
This is exactly what happened to a B.C. mom who was refused travel with her newborn preemie due to the fact that she didn’t have a Canadian passport.
The health minister got involved blaming the whole mix up on a U.S. customs official. Protocols are in place between the U.S. and Canada that are supposed to allow patients to be transferred across the border without delays caused by passport regulations.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Abbott said in a phone interview. “We have been following this issue with concern and interest. It appears there was a misunderstanding on the part of the U.S. [Department of] Homeland Security office in respect to the circumstances regarding this case.
“As a consequence, there was a difficulty in the transfer of the mother along with the baby to Spokane,” Abbott said.
The health minister blamed a U.S. junior official for making the call. He said that had “senior officials” been made aware of the situation, the mother, who does not have a passport, would have been permitted to travel.
A U.S. Customs spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.
Parents Lisa Chiasson and James Flett crossed the border by car, heading for Spokane after their baby boy, Gabriel, born 10 weeks premature Tuesday, was airlifted to a U.S. hospital, according to Global TV.
Passports are not required yet for land crossings into the U.S.
Six pregnant B.C. women have been airlifted to Alberta and Washington state in the past week because of a shortage of hospital beds at the only three hospitals in the province that handle high-risk pregnancies and neonatal intensive care.
There are 200 beds for medium- to high-risk pregnancies in B.C. — including 19 at Victoria General Hospital, of which an average of 16 are used. But beds in B.C. and Alberta were full, according to Vancouver Island Health Authority and B.C. Ministry of Health officials.
Abbott said the “unusually high demand” coincided with similar spikes in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Chiasson was originally barred from the flight with her newborn because the plane was full. An expectant mother in Vancouver was supposed to be picked up en route to Spokane.
When that plan fell through, B.C. Health Ministry spokeswoman Sarah Plank said, officials here informed the U.S. that Chiasson would now be flying with her newborn — but U.S. officials balked and demanded a passport. Because the infant was in urgent need of care, he went alone, Plank said.
“Hopefully,” Abbott said, “it won’t happen again.”