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Providence Healthcare is planning on closing the birth center at the Petaluma Valley Hospital this year. It's a move that has come as a shock to many - but not necessarily a surprise.

Despite a contractual obligation to keep the hospital’s Family Birth Center open for five years following its 2021 purchase, in January Providence announced plans to shutter the center.

Current staff say their unit has been subject of closure rumors for years though, a feeling which Obstetrics Nurse Sheri Buda said was pervasive when she joined two years ago.

"I was told when I first started on the unit that the unit was only gonna be open for five years cause the hospital wasn't gonna keep us open past that," Buda said. "That's, that was the sentiment on the unit the minute I walked in the door."

Denise Cobb, an obstetrics nurse who has worked at the birth center for 25 years, said the announcement has been hard to swallow.

"I very honestly don't know why they haven't invested more money in us," Cobb said. "They promised to invest make the place a little better and draw more patients in. We do great work there."

Petaluma Valley has been named among the best maternity hospitals in the nation by Newsweek and recognized for its high breast feeding rate.

Providence said despite its best efforts, the company has been unable to recruit new obstetrics caregivers and secure anesthetic services for the center.

But numerous staff told KRCB News they believe Providence’s plan to close the birth center is a way to free up its OB-GYN doctors. That's so they can be transferred full time to Providence-owned Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, which also has had difficulty retaining OB-GYN doctors. To maintain Memorial's designation as a trauma center....which brings in needs those doctors on staff.

Staff and their supporters plan to rally Wednesday from 3-5:45 PM in advance of the Petaluma Health Care District Board which the closure will once again be the topic of focus.

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