Watch: Virtual Forum on Childbirth Program Transition; St. Joseph Hospital to Serve as Obstetrics Hub in Humboldt
Hospital Stakeholders host additional public forum on Redwood Memorial OB transition
As part of the plan to implement the transition of the obstetrics program from Redwood Memorial Hospital (RMH) to St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka (SJE), the public was invited to join a virtual community education forum held on Wednesday, April 7. The forum was the second installment of a community education series aimed at engaging the public on this very important plan to enhance childbirth services for all of Humboldt County.
Press Release - February 26, 2021
Transition of Services from Redwood Memorial Hospital Creates Single, High-Quality Childbirth Center in Eureka
As a result of declining birth volumes across Humboldt County, especially in the Eel River Valley, and the county-wide loss of women’s services physicians, Redwood Memorial Hospital (RMH) plans to close its obstetrics program on July 1, 2021. Childbirth services will be transitioned to the obstetrics program at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka (SJE), incorporating the staff and the legacy of both programs to create a single, high-quality childbirth center, supported by a Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
"Operationally, it’s been very challenging to support both programs. The decision to transition services was not taken lightly and we know this is nobody’s preference,” said Roberta Luskin-Hawk, M.D. chief executive for Providence in Humboldt County. “However, this is a trend that is happening across the country in rural communities. By focusing services at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, we will be able to recruit additional physicians, enhance the hospital as a robust regional medical center, build upon an award-winning program and develop a service line which will be recognized as a center of excellence, while supporting the important role of Redwood Memorial Hospital as a Critical Access Hospital.”
In 2013, the question of the sustainability of obstetrics care at RMH was evaluated and the community partnered with St. Joseph Health (now Providence) to recruit a physician with training in obstetrics and gynecology. Despite that effort and the addition of family physicians with obstetric privileges to Open Door Community Health Centers, the community once again faces challenges with the loss of women’s services physicians and support staff across Humboldt County and the gradual decline of deliveries. Consolidation will further address provider shortage in the county and allow resources to be better allocated at RMH.
Additionally, in a post-COVID world, some pre-natal care can now be delivered closer to home by virtual means. Consolidating programs will further ensure top-tier obstetric and gynecological providers will be on hand to support moms and babies.
RMH caregivers affected by the transition will be offered comparable positions within the obstetrics program at SJE. No layoffs are anticipated related to the consolidation.
“Redwood Memorial Hospital will continue to be a special place and a vital component of Providence’s care delivery network in Humboldt County,” said Dennis Leonardi, Ferndale resident and Chairman of the Community Board for Providence in Humboldt County. “The new acute inpatient rehab unit project at Redwood is just one example of the commitment local hospital leadership has made and will continue to make in the Eel River Valley.”
Plans have been developed to renovate and remodel the existing obstetrics unit at SJE. The redesigned unit will promote a nurturing environment with the latest technologies which will provide an enhanced birth experience for mothers and their babies. Construction will be completed this summer.
“Consistent with our Mission, our goal will always be to focus on the dignity of our patients and the quality and scope of services the Humboldt County community needs, while remaining good stewards of our resources,” said Luskin-Hawk, MD.
Why are we doing this?
Consistent with our Mission, our goal will always be to focus on the dignity of our patients and the quality and scope of services the Humboldt County community needs, while remaining good stewards of our resources. The program continues to experience challenges as a loss of physicians and lower volumes make it difficult to meet the requirements to sustain a viable program. The best solution for the community is to consolidate obstetrics services at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka (SJE).
What is the data that supports the closure?
Per the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) and local data, the total number of births at Redwood Memorial Hospital dropped from 380 in 2015, to 210 in 2020, a 44% decline. During that same time, births across the county fell by 18%.
How will this benefit the communities we serve?
The benefits of consolidating the obstetric program to SJE are many, including:
- It allows us to deliver high-quality, consistent obstetric services in one location with access to higher levels of care and resources like our Level 2 NICU.
- It allows us to work in a collaborative model making the recruitment and retention of women’s services providers more successful.
- It enhances SJE as a robust regional medical center while stabilizing the important role of RMH as a Critical Access Hospital.
- It enables us to build upon an award-winning program and develop a service line which will be recognized as a center of excellence.
- It enables our Family Medicine Residents at SJE the opportunity to gain critical education and experience in a higher volume birth center with support of NICU and pediatric hospitalists.
- It allows us to align our resources by providing the right care in the right place provided by the right people with the right skills and talent.
- It allows us to concentrate and more efficiently allocate resources at RMH.
When will this happen?
The transition of services will occur on July 1, 2021.
Do we anticipate adding new jobs or laying off caregivers as a result of this consolidation?
Our caregivers are at the heart of our Mission. Redwood Memorial Hospital (RMH) caregivers affected by the consolidation will be offered comparable positions within the obstetrics program at SJE. We do not anticipate any layoffs related to this consolidation.
Will the additional drive time to Eureka be an obstacle to care?
It’s important to note that women from all over the county have delivered at RMH, not just Fortuna and southern Humboldt. Based on recent delivery data in the county from OSHPD, women who have delivered at RMH would drive, on average, an additional 15 minutes (11 miles) further to deliver their babies at SJE, and a maximum of 25 additional minutes if coming from southern Humboldt. Even today, many women come from all over the county to receive obstetric services at SJE.
Is virtual pre-natal care in option for moms?
In a post-COVID world, some pre-natal care can now be delivered closer to home by virtual means. Consolidating programs will further ensure top-tier obstetric and gynecological providers will be on hand to support moms and babies.
Are other services at RMH at risk of closing?
No. This decision will allow us to better allocate resources at Redwood Memorial and focus on emergency services, medical and surgical services, rehabilitation services, and a Rural Health Clinic that provides primary care. This is consistent with the Critical Access Hospital designation that was sought and granted in 2005 and aligns with other services offered at critical access hospitals in Northern California, such as Jerold Phelps Hospital, Adventist Howard Memorial Hospital and Healdsburg Hospital, which don’t offer obstetric services.
Is this consistent with our Mission and values?
Living our Core Values does not mean we do not have to make difficult decisions. In fact, delivering on our Mission compels us to continually evaluate our processes, service lines and work to ensure we provide high-quality, compassionate care. We are called every day to make choices that contribute to the success and sustainability of our organization. As far back as Le Puy, the Sisters of St. Joseph have a legacy of responding to the signs of the times and adapting to the needs of the community.