REDMOND, OR -- Redmond’s City Council sent a formal letter to St. Charles Health System’s Board of Directors, this week, asking them to keep the Family Birthing Center at the Redmond Hospital. It follows Tuesday’s Council meeting that attracted dozens of supporters and got heated at times.
Dr. Barbara Newman, an OB/GYN and Clinical Director for Women and Children at St. Charles Redmond, told Councilors at the meeting that the proposal to consolidate services in Bend came from months of work by a task force, where six of the 20 members were from Redmond. "Aside from financial considerations, demographics show that the segment of childbearing aged women is decreasing over our three counties; while the 45-65 age group group of women is on the rise. Childbirth numbers have been basically flat here over the last four years." However, Mayor George Endicott told Dr. Newman a recent study of Redmond’s population showed the median age of women in the city is 34.
Dr. Newman appeared at the meeting with Aaron Adams, President of the Redmond and Prineville hospitals. Both answered questions from Councilors who were concerned there was not enough consideration given to how closing Redmond's birth center could impact the surrounding community. Dr. Newman believes it will allow the health system to expand services for the entire region, "The proposal, which our task force is forwarding to the Board of Directors, focuses on the addition of a 24/7/365 day in-house midwifery service in Bend, as well as a 24/7/365 day in-house obstetrical coverage with a dedicated obstetrical emergency department, in the form of a hospitalist program."
Councilor Camden King told Adams and Dr. Newman the proposal reverses promises made when St. Charles took over the Central Oregon District Hospital in 2000. "I can’t get my head around any notion where removing the birthing center enhances the livability and wellbeing of our community. I mean, I get that there are some financial issues going on. But, if I heard you right, option number two included keeping the birthing center here and enhancing services. As a citizen of Redmond and member of this community, I kind of lean toward option number two." His statement was met with applause from the dozens of hospital staff and supporters in Council Chambers. Following statements by every Councilor in support of the center, they unanimously passed a resolution encouraging St. Charles to keep it open.
In the letter sent Wednesday, and obtained by KBND News, Councilors also ask St. Charles to diversify its Board with at least two members from Redmond, as was agreed in 2000 when St. Charles acquired the facility. Read the full letter below.
The health system's Board is expected to make a final decision on the fate of the Redmond Birthing Center, before the end of the year.
Mr. Dan Schuette
Chair, St. Charles Health System Board of Directors
2500 NE Neff Road Bend, Oregon 97701
Dear Mr. Schuette:
As Mayor of Redmond, I am sending this letter on behalf of the entire Redmond City Council.
On October 23, 2018, the Redmond City Council unanimously passed Resolution 2018-27. This Resolution strongly encourages the St. Charles Medical Center Board of Directors to keep the Redmond Birthing Center open and operational so as to provide crucial, necessary, and quality services to Redmond residents.
The Council passed this resolution because we care about the convenience for our community to have their babies in Redmond and not having to drive 20 miles to Bend; we care about giving mothers and families a local choice in a familiar setting for these important life moments; we care about maintaining the employment of 29 – 34 registered nurses without threat of a change in job status/pay/location; and we care about St. Charles upholding the commitment they made when they acquired our local hospital in 2000.
The St. Charles Resolution attracted more than 50 people to our City Council meeting and approximately nine people provided public testimony – including Redmond/Bend CEO Mr. Aaron Adams. We appreciate Mr. Adams participating in the hearing and helping educate us about the process and the context around the recommendations for moving the Birthing Center to Bend, Oregon.
The purpose of this letter is twofold:
1) To express the Redmond City Council’s opposition to the St. Charles Board of Directors moving any critical services, including the Redmond Birthing Center, from Redmond to Bend.
2) To encourage St. Charles to diversify the membership of its Board of Directors by reestablishing positions for at least two Redmond representatives consistent with the Asset Transfer Agreement made by St. Charles when it acquired the Central Oregon District Hospital back in 2000.
While we understand the cost drivers St. Charles is using to justify a potential move of the facility, we also feel any such reduction in services in Redmond would be short-sighted. When the Central Oregon District Hospital consolidated with St. Charles, there was a commitment to enhance the public health and general welfare of all residents.
Redmond currently has a population of approximately 29,000 and it is increasing at an annual rate of around 750-800. As the second largest city in a rapidly growing region, this is not the time to dilute the services offered at St. Charles – particularly one that is so vital to our families.
We feel it is imperative that Redmond families be able to maintain the choice of having their children born in Redmond and implore the Board to make a decision that reflects empathy and compassion rather than quantitative decision methods.
Thank you for your willingness to consider our opinion on this critical matter.
Mayor; Redmond, Oregon