Saskatoon Health Region has begun an external review into concerns raised by Indigenous women who felt pressured to consent to tubal ligations after the birth of their child.
"We are so sorry for the experience these women have had while in our care. They had immense courage in coming forward with their concerns. As we have met with them to hear their stories, and have made changes based on those stories, we know more needs to be done to continue to move collectively forward in this healing journey," says Jackie Mann, Vice-President Integrated Health Services, Saskatoon Health Region. "We are pleased to announce today that we have engaged two very qualified individuals to help us. We are asking the reviewers to listen to the stories of the women who have come forward to us, hear from others who may have had similar experiences, talk with our care teams and provide us with further recommendations on how we can improve the maternal care experience."
Dr. Yvonne Boyer, a lawyer and Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Health and Wellness at Brandon University, and Dr. Judy Bartlett, a physician and former professor with the College of Medicine at the University of Manitoba, have been engaged to conduct the review which will begin this month.
"We worked with our First Nations and Métis Health service and received guidance from Elders in order to find the right people who would ensure the women who have come forward feel supported and are heard during this process," explains Mann. "We also wanted individuals who have had experience dealing with complex issues facing Indigenous communities."
Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure in which a woman's fallopian tubes are clamped or severed and is considered a permanent method of birth control.
Prior to the women raising their concerns, Health Region care providers obtained consent for tubal ligations within hospital immediately following the labour experience. Today, a policy is in place that a woman must have a documented discussion with her healthcare provider before coming into hospital. Otherwise, tubal ligations will not be provided during the patient's post-partum experience.
"We want to ensure that we as healthcare providers look at this not through our own lens, but instead focus on supporting patients in making their own decisions based on their own personal experiences," says Leanne Smith, Saskatoon Health Region's director of Maternal Services. "This means ensuring having the right policies, procedures and training in place to support patients in this care environment. We hope this review will provide further recommendations on how we can improve."
Those who have not yet come forward, but wish to participate in the review, can contact Saskatoon Health Region's First Nations and Métis Health Service, in confidence, by calling 306-655-0546 or 306-655-0176. They will be connected to the reviewers. As well, the reviewers anticipate providing opportunities for women to contact them directly, if desired.
The review is anticipated to conclude this spring. The Region plans on publicly releasing the recommendations from the report and other details while ensuring confidentiality of those who wish their stories to remain private.
Backgrounder: Reviewer Biographies