MSA and health authority collaboration leads to creation of lactation spaces

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A conversation between VPSA Past President Dr. Alison Harris and VCH Regional Medical Director, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Dr. Joy Masuhara was the impetus behind the new dedicated lactation spaces rolling out across VCH.

“We identified a need for lactation spaces to support parents wanting to return to work,” said Dr. Harris. “We felt it was important to provide a comfortable, clean, dedicated space for parents to feed and or pump in a private environment close to their workplace.”

Dr. Masuhara and VCH Regional Leader, Physician Engagement & Program Development Salima Noormohamed recognized the importance of this request, particularly for medical staff who return to work earlier than others, and formed a working group with Dr. Harris. They were able to secure funding from VGH + UBC Hospital Foundation. The initiative was presented to VPSA and VCH senior leaders at a meeting that was attended by VCH CEO Vivian Eliopoulos; she recommended that dedicated lactation spaces be implemented across all VCH sites.

“This was a small but mighty initiative that brought about meaningful change thanks to medical staff engagement,” said Salima. “The project quickly spread across all VCH with additional funding from the Lions Gate and Richmond Hospital Foundations.”

The first site to open in the Vancouver Community of Care was at Three Bridges Community Health Centre in October, where there were physicians about to return from mat leave. UBC Hospital has a freestanding lactation pod—the first of its kind at VCH. A dedicated room in the Leon Blackmore Pavilion at VGH is now operational. And a room on the main floor of GF Strong has been identified, with the expectation that it will open soon. Outside of the Vancouver Community of Care, a lactation space has opened at Lions Gate Hospital and another freestanding lactation pod is coming soon to Richmond Hospital. Detailed information on all the sites is available here.

“Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in the number of staff taking parental leave across the organization,” said Dr. Masuhara. “The new lactation spaces are intended to be used as a safe, comfortable environment to support parents to maintain breast or chest feeding. This aligns with the Baby Friendly Initiative and the Canadian Pediatric Society’s Guidelines for Infant Feeding.”

“This has been a team effort with involvement from VCH, VPSA, the Medical Staff EDI Committee, and the hospital foundations,” added Dr. Harris. “It is also a great example of how a suggestion from an MSA can bring about change. VPSA leadership meets regularly with senior VCH leaders, and we have forums where these kinds of ideas can be brought forward. I encourage all our members to use their MSA to have their voice be heard.”

Feedback from users and advocates

“Great to see this come to life. Thank you.”

“Such an important initiative.”

“I pumped in between surgeries on toilet seats for both my babies.”

“I have personal experience coming back from mat leave and having to pump at a corporate office…. This is a great initiative to recognize the needs of moms coming back to work.”

“Thank you so much for this space.”

“Boy, has VCH come a long way.”

“Breast/chest feeding parents and babies matter in VCH. 🙂 ”

“… thanks to everyone involved in this fantastic initiative to support staff and medical staff by creating inclusive and welcoming spaces at VCH.”

“Great news. Yay mothers.”

“Great to see inclusive spaces!”

“What a wonderful partnership with VPSA and the VGH + UBC Hospital Foundation to bring the lactation pods to life at last. And so rewarding that this will be happening across all of VCH as well.”

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