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About Sickkids
About SickKids

March 8, 2005

Ontario hospitals launch Fetal Alert Network

TORONTO — Hospitals in Hamilton, Kingston, London, Ottawa and Toronto today announced the creation of the Fetal Alert Network, a new provincial program designed to improve health care for pregnant women and their unborn babies with birth defects.

The Fetal Alert Network is a joint initiative of The Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids) and Mount Sinai Hospital. Regional partners include Hamilton Health Sciences; Kingston General Hospital; St. Joseph's Health Care, London; and The Ottawa Hospital.

The project has been funded by the Government of Ontario through the Primary Health Care Transition Fund , which is providing $1.87 million over two years.

"In Ontario, an estimated 4,000 babies are born with birth defects each year," said project leader Dr. Peter Kim, a paediatric surgeon and scientist at Sick Kids. "Birth defects are the number one cause of infant death, and account for more than 36 per cent of all children's hospital admissions. Yet we know very little about these babies, their mothers or how they use the health care system."

Tracking results to improve care

The network's goal is to provide coordinated access to the best prenatal care for all women whose babies have confirmed or suspected birth defects, regardless of where they live. To do this, the project team has established five regional health care delivery units and one satellite clinic, each led by a nurse coordinator and a physician who specializes in maternal fetal medicine. The coordinators will assess regional needs, identify gaps in service, and help coordinate and integrate health services.

"For a pregnant woman who discovers that her unborn baby may have a problem, navigating through the health care system can be confusing, overwhelming and uncoordinated, at a time when she is highly vulnerable," said project co-leader Dr. Greg Ryan, director of the Fetal Medicine Program at Mount Sinai Hospital. "Timing can be crucial in her ability to make decisions about her pregnancy or ensure she has the optimal level of care for her unborn child."

To help ensure women get the right care at the right time, the Fetal Alert Network is developing a database to track birth defects and results and to monitor the system's performance. Birth defects registries exist elsewhere, but the network will be the first system to monitor the incidence, outcomes and care of infants with birth defects, in order to improve care. The information from the database will help establish clinical and administrative benchmarks.It will help improve policy planning, resource allocation and access to care, and increase efficiency

“We are making critical prenatal care more accessible to women whose unborn babies may have birth defects,”said Health and Long-Term Care Minister George Smitherman. “This fits with our health care renewal strategy by providing Ontarians with the quality care they need in their community.”

To help improve access to care, the network is also introducing a coordinated referral process. This includes a 1-800 number for referring health care providers who may encounter difficulty in accessing tertiary care services, a single province-wide online referral form, and at, www.fetalalertnetwork.com, for pregnant women and their health care providers.

The brings together several reliable medical resources in one place, making it faster and easier for expectant parents and their health care providers to get information on birth defects, prenatal screening, fetal diagnostic tests, interventions or therapy. It will also provide information on all regional fetal medicine units and genetic centres throughout Ontario.

See the: Birth Defects and the Fetal Alert Network

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Kathy Pyatt,
Mount Sinai Hospital
Phone: 416-586-5311
e-mail: kpyatt@mtsinai.on.ca

Shelly Easton,
Hamilton Health Sciences
Phone: 905-521-2100, ext. 76731
e-mail: eastons@hhsc.ca

Julie White,
Kingston General Hospital
Phone: 613-549-6666 ext. 4245
e-mail: whitej@kgh.kari.net

Linda Whitmore,
St. Joseph's Health Care, London,
Phone: 519-646-6100, ext. 65294
e-mail: linda.whitmore@sjhc.london.on.ca

Ron Vezina,
The Ottawa Hospital
Phone: 613-737-8460
e-mail: rvezina@ottawahospital.on.ca

For more information, please contact:

Public Affairs
The Hospital for Sick Children
555 University Avenue
Suite 1742, Public Affairs, First floor Atrium
Toronto, ON
M5G 1X8
Phone: 416-813-5058
Fax: 416-813-5328