WRHA reports increase in babies born with drug addiction/withdrawal

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority reported a 13 per cent increase last year in babies born with symptoms of drug addiction and withdrawal — a statistic the Manitoba Nurses Union calls "worrisome."

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/11/2018 (1366 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority reported a 13 per cent increase last year in babies born with symptoms of drug addiction and withdrawal — a statistic the Manitoba Nurses Union calls “worrisome.”

At St. Boniface Hospital, the number of children born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), as the condition is known, rose by 70 per cent last year, while at Health Sciences Centre, it declined. The hospitals have the city’s two neonatal intensive care units (NICU).

Nurses at St. Boniface’s NICU have complained about high rates of mandatory overtime. Babies born with NAS require intensive care.

Nurses union president Darlene Jackson said while there is no evidence that the rise in drug-addicted newborns is due to methamphetamine use, “it would make sense… that there is some correlation there,” she said.

“We do see an increase (in babies born with NAS), which is very worrying. And it doesn’t matter what drug they’re withdrawing from. The increase is worrisome.”
– Nurses union president Darlene Jackson

“We do see an increase (in babies born with NAS), which is very worrying,” Jackson said. “And it doesn’t matter what drug they’re withdrawing from. The increase is worrisome.”

Jackson said both NICUs are extremely busy and working at “overcapacity.” Recently, the provincial government earmarked an additional $3.8 million for the two units.

The number of neonatal abstinence syndrome babies treated in Winnipeg stood at 88 in 2017-18, compared with 78 in 2016-17 and 71 a year earlier. Generally, Health Sciences Centre handles the bulk of the cases.

Early figures for the current fiscal year (April through July) indicate the upward trend of the last few years might be coming to an end. In the first four months, 20 NAS babies underwent intensive care at the two city hospitals: 17 at HSC and three at St. B.

A spokesman for the WRHA said hospitals do not track the specific substance used by the mothers of babies with NAS.

He said the large single-year increase in NAS babies cared for at St. Boniface’s NICU was mainly a function of which of the two hospitals had the ability to take the patient at that moment.

In a Sept. 26 report to the WRHA, St. Boniface hospital president and CEO Martine Bouchard said that during the past eight years, the hospital has seen “a consistent increasing trend” in the overall number of infants spending time in its NICU or its neonatal intensive care observation unit.

Projections for the current fiscal year is that both units will care for 508 newborns, a 21 per cent increase since 2010-11, Bouchard said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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