A controversial decision to limit the number of live births at an Ottawa hospital sparked a protest by healthcare workers and criticism by an organization representing obstetricians and gynecologists.

The Queensway-Carleton Hospital imposed a cap of 2,100 live births per year as a cost-saving measure. The hospital has demanded obstetricians sign written assurances that they will limit the number of live births to 2,100 or risk losing their jobs.

The hospital subsequently cut operating room time for gynecological surgery by a third to make time for general surgery.

Catherine Weaver, a registered practical nurse, urged healthcare professionals to rise up against the ruling in a protest on the hospital’s front lawn on Dec. 1. She asked what the hospital expects expectant mothers to do when it is time to give birth. She also said the cut in surgery room time may prevent surgery for women with certain types of cancer.

Weaver said the hospital usually delivers 2,400-2,700 babies each year.

Thus far, ob-gyns have refused to agree to the cap, saying it endangers mothers and their children. Weaver told the Ottawa Citizen that limiting obstetrical services and operating room time for gynecological surgery will create a crisis for women because other hospitals are full.

In a letter to the hospital’s board of directors, Dr. Jan Christilaw, president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, urged a reconsideration of the policy and an end to the pressure tactics employed in the current fight. Christilaw said the policy was a “serious affront” to the healthcare system and independence of medical specialists.

Pro-life groups worry that some women may be forced to have abortions if the hospital has used up its allocation of live births.

The Queensway-Carleton Hospital was not available for comment.