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Cox Award winner studying obstetric outcomes

Dr. Kris Aubrey-Bassler

By Sharon Gray

With the help of a $30,000 Cox Award from the Medical Research Fund (MRF), Dr. Kris Aubrey-Bassler is undertaking a study that will shed light on obstetrical services for women in rural areas of the country.

As a member of the Primary Healthcare Research Group (PHRU), Dr. Aubrey-Bassler’s research is looking for results that have clinical relevance.

“The information collected from this study will allow women, particularly from rural areas, to be better informed when choosing the delivery location most suited to their needs,” he said. “For example, we will provide information on the level of risk (if any) to a woman that chooses the convenience of delivering at a local hospital with a lower level of services rather than travel to a more highly specialized hospital. This information will also help policy makers to determine the most appropriate level of care to offer at rural hospitals.”

Dr. Aubrey-Bassler explained that women from rural areas where obstetrical deliveries are not performed often face long travel times to reach a hospital that does offer these services. “Where obstetrical programs do exist in rural areas, local volumes usually don’t allow a full range of services such as those that are offered in large urban centres."

The researcher said that previous research suggests that neonatal mortality, hospital charges, and the risk of an abnormal neonate are all greater for women with poor access to care at their home hospital, even though those women are usually travelling to deliver at high volume, specialized centres.

“In determining the obstetrical outcomes for rural women, it appears as though proximity to care is more important than the level of service offered. Despite this, obstetrical programs in small rural hospitals are closing – we estimate that 25,000 Canadian women per year must travel away from their home communities to deliver their babies, often at great inconvenience and expense.”
The study will look at the outcomes for women and their babies from all regions of the country, ranging from those with no services to the most highly specialized centres. “We are primarily interested in comparing the outcomes for women from areas with no services to those from similar areas with higher levels of service,” said Dr. Aubrey-Bassler. “From this information, we hope to help clarify the optimal level of services required at rural hospitals.”