Coastal Post Online

August 2001

Coastal Health Alliance Warns Of Obstetric Crisis

Petaluma Valley Hospital Labor and Delivery (L&D)/Obstetrics Ward is at dire risk of being permanently closed in the next few weeks. This decision by the administration of the hospital threatens health and safety of pregnant women and their babies, as well as reduces the quality and availability of women's health care services for the entire Petaluma and West Marin area. Please voice your support for keeping L&D open!

History: Petaluma Valley Hospital (PVH) has long cared for the residents of Petaluma and West Marin communities. PVH has the only labor and delivery ward between Marin General Hospital and Santa Rosa. Carino Medical Group, comprised of physicians and midwives from the Coastal Health Alliance and the Petaluma Health Center, provides full spectrum of hospital care to our patients at PVH. This includes delivering babies, as well as taking care of hospitalized adults and children. Between our four clinics, approximately 240 women deliver their babies at PVH each year. Overall, between 500-600 babies are delivered at PVH yearly. A few years ago, St. Joseph Health System took over the administration of PVH from the Petaluma Health Care District. The Petaluma Health Care District now represents the needs of the community members who use PVH. As part of their lease, St. Joseph was mandated to provide obstetric services at PVH.

Last week, David Ameen, the CEO of St. Joseph Health System announced that he wanted to close the labor and delivery suite at PVH due to safety concerns/staffing difficulties. It is true that for the last few months it has been difficult to find nurses to work on L&D. This is largely due to nurses leaving PVH to work at other Bay Area hospitals that pay more and offer better bonuses/incentives. In addition, there is a national nursing shortage. Instead of making PVH salaries and incentives competitive with those of other hospitals, Mr. Ameen is using this temporary nursing shortage as an opportunity to close L&D. He even went so far as to arbitrarily set a date of August 1 to close the unit. This announcement came despite the fact that the unit is fully staffed for at least the next month. Our group agrees that the staffing up until now has been safe and adequate. Our patients have continued to receive the quality of care they deserve and expect.

We strongly believe that it is unsafe to close PVH Labor and Delivery. Without this ward, there will be no hospital providing obstetrical care between Greenbrae and Santa Rosa. Depending on traffic, some women may need to travel up to two hours to reach a hospital to have their baby. With the closure of L&D, we will probably lose the three Petaluma obstetricians to other cities. This will impact upon a complete range of women's health care services, including all forms of gynecologic consultation and surgery. Furthermore, the closure of one ward threatens the well being of the entire hospital. With no obstetrics, the pediatricians and anesthesiologists will start to look for work elsewhere. This reduces availability of other hospital services, including elective and emergency surgeries. Who will then be available to do emergency cesarean sections when a pregnant woman walks into the emergency room? We fear that closing L&D ultimately threatens the very existence and viability of the hospital. Is that the goal of St. Joseph's Health System? Will we be left with no local hospital at all?

How Can I Make a Difference? The Petaluma Health Care Board of Directors has to approve Mr. Ameen's recommendation to close PVH L&D. You can write them and let them know that you want them to OPPOSE the closure. Let them know that you consider it essential to continue caring for pregnant women and their new babies at PVH. Act now! Tell your neighbors! Write to the editors of your local newspaper. Contact David Ameen and let him know what you think. Write your city and state representatives to let them know your position. Furthermore, plan to attend the Petaluma City Council meeting at the Petaluma City Council Headquarters at 5 p.m. on August. 1.



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