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Whitby woman denied epidural supply during labor over shortage

A woman from Whitby says she had to go through delivering her son last week without a constant epidural supply during labor, despite the Ministry of Health saying there is no shortage of catheters in Ontario.

“It was extremely painful, like agonizing pain, and I almost prayed for a c-section at that point [to be prescribed more to regulate the pain],” Triana Burford told CTV News Toronto.

In her medical file available on her phone, the notes from the prescribing doctor indicate a “lack of epidural catheters” prevented her from receiving more than a single dose versus a continuous supply to regulate her pain.

The dose offered also didn’t last as long as intended, she said, enduring for 40 minutes instead of four hours.

In all, her induced labor lasted five hours, with almost an hour after the epidural wore off, she said.


The Chair of the Obstetrics and Gynecology section at the Ontario Medical Association Section says the shortage is across Ontario.

“It is a concern for all of our patients, because it’s not the GTA that’s short on catheters, it’s the entire province,” said Dr. Constance Nasello.

Hospital networks have reported shortages or limited supply in recent days, but a spokesperson for the Minister of Health told CTV News on Tuesday the province is overall in a good position compared to others in the west of Canada.

“Currently, Ontario has an adequate supply of epidural catheters and women are able to access epidurals for child birth,” Bill Campbell said in an email statement.

To ensure equitable access, “hospitals will receive instructions on how to assess and report on current inventory in the coming days,” he added.

Burford says if there was no epidural catheter shortage, she would not have been in as much unwanted labor pain.

“I would say the ministry is lying,” she said.

The Whitby woman has been pregnant three times. Last year, she lost two twins who were stillborn. She said she had an epidural during her first pregnancy, but refused for the twins.

At Lakeridge Health Center in Ajax last week, she said she wanted an experience different than the last, from beginning to end.

“This time, I knew I wanted [an epidural]because I didn’t want to experience that pain again,” she said.

Her son, Cruz, was born happy and healthy. His middle name is Kairo—in honor of one of his deceased older brothers, lost almost a year to the day before.


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