Story Corps

Placeholder Image photo credit: Noah Abrams/KRCB
Protest signs outside the February Healthcare Board meeting 

Providence Healthcare plans to shutter Petaluma Valley Hospital’s Family Birth Center on May 1st. The move comes in spite of protests from staff, the healthcare district board, and the operating contract.

"No matter what somebody thinks about figuring out diversions where you're gonna go, we all know we're gonna have a dead mom and a dead baby," Cheryl Negrin said.

Negrin is a member of the Petaluma Healthcare District Board and former staff at Petaluma Valley Hospital’s Family Birth Center.

She and other board members have been united in their opposition to Providence’s efforts to close the center and end on-call obstetrics services in Petaluma.

But with only days left until the May 1st closure, Petaluma Valley Hospital’s new chief executive Troy Gideon said the hospital’s focus is on streamlining hospital transfers for patients in labor and training emergency room staff in labor and delivery.

"This is a low volume, high risk, right? Gideon said. "So for anything that's low volume, high risk, we should have continued education; and so from a quality oversight perspective, each case that takes place, there will be a case review."

One Petaluma Valley Hospital staff member, who asked to remain anonymous, said emergency room personnel remain fearful and unprepared for an emergency labor and delivery.

Petaluma’s Healthcare District Board is continuing negotiations with Providence in an effort to keep the Family Birth Center open past May 1st.

That's because Providence’s 2020 purchase agreement for the hospital stipulated the center remain open for at least five years.

But Healthcare Board member Dr. Jeffrey Tobais said the writing seems to be on the wall.

"There's been essentially a gutting of the resources," Tobias said. "The nurses have been reassigned or left, have gone to other facilities, and it just strikes me that there may be words that say, yeah, we'd like to keep it open if we could, but all the actions seem to be saying, no, we're done."

Despite Providence’s plan to consolidate on-call obstetric care at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Tobias said the closure leaves an unreasonable hole in Petaluma’s healthcare environment.

"This is the second largest city in Sonoma County," Tobias said. "For us not to have rapid access to an obstetrics unit is really, it just makes no sense. It's well documented in the literature. There's no doubt that time is, are lives and outcomes; and the further you travel the, the more risks there are."

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