Santa Paula Memorial Hospital To Close Obstetrics Unit
Santa Paula Memorial Hospital officials on Friday announced that they will close the facility's obstetrics unit this month because it has not been able to hire enough nurses to staff the maternity ward 24 hours a day, the Los Angeles Times reports. The hospital needs nine full-time nurses to keep the ward open, but it only has five. Efforts to hire more nurses have failed in part because the hospital's $3.5 million debt makes it "unattractive" to nurses seeking job security and because the hospital cannot afford cash incentives that other hospitals have been offering to attract applicants, according to the Times. Santa Paula Memorial officials have requested that the Department of Health Services allow it to suspend maternity ward operations from six months to three years. The hospital would accept obstetrics patients in emergencies, such as when a patient cannot be transferred safely to another hospital, according to nursing director Karin Lyders (Covarrubias, Los Angeles Times, 11/29).
In related news, the Santa Paula City Council last week voted unanimously to approve spending up to $15,000 to hire a mediator to help negotiate a partnership between Santa Paula Memorial and the Ventura County health care system, the Los Angeles Times reports (Griggs, Los Angeles Times, 11/26). Last month, Ventura County officials broke off negotiations aimed at incorporating Santa Paula into the county health care system because of concerns that the venture would jeopardize the county's finances, after which the city council voted unanimously to file a complaint with the state attorney general to force the hospital to complete a merger with the Ventura County health system in an effort to keep the hospital open. The attorney general's office last month told Santa Paula city officials that it would not intercede in the matter (California Healthline, 11/25). "The city opted not to go ahead with its own legal action, for the moment, and instead allow mediation to have a chance. The goal of [Santa Paula and Fillmore] is to keep the hospital open," Santa Paula City Attorney Karl Berger said. The Fillmore City Council was scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to spend up to $10,000 for a mediator and to appoint a member to the negotiation team. City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said that if mediation is initiated, negotiations would begin shortly because "[e]verybody understands the urgency" (Los Angeles Times, 11/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.