REDMOND, OR -- More than 50 people packed into a meeting room at the Redmond Library, Monday night, to discuss a proposal by St. Charles Health System to close the Family Birthing Center (FBC) at its Redmond Hospital. The Oregon Nurses Association hosted the event, providing a petition in support of the department and handing out flyers encouraging people to contact St. Charles President Joe Sluka and ask him to save the FBC.
St. Charles Chief Operating Officer Iman Simmons tells KBND News they're looking at several options that would lower costs for patients. But Kelly Telfer, a Labor and Delivery nurse in Redmond for five years, doesn’t believe it will save money, "If you go to the Redmond ER and you’re in labor, they’re going to call an ambulance and you’re going to get transported in an ambulance to Bend, and then have that additional expense." Telfer delivered all three of her babies at the Redmond hospital and is now pregnant with her fourth. She worries about the increased danger of forcing expectant mothers to drive to Bend or Madras, "The risk for having a baby in the car or the back of an ambulance, or delivering at home, increases exponentially the farther you have to drive, of course. And, the more babies you have, the more likely you are to have faster labors and deliver in a situation that isn’t ideal to deliver a baby in, which is what we want to try and prevent."
Nurse Amber Loredo has worked at the Redmond FBC for seven years. She also worries about the increased travel time, "If it is closed and then taken to Bend, there will be patients, like myself – I live in Culver, who would never make it to Bend; which then could put mom and baby at risk." She acknowledges the Madras hospital is an option, but says many Jefferson County moms choose to deliver in Redmond because of its excellent reputation. Telfer agrees the Madras birthing center provides good care, but it has struggled in recent years, including closing for six months in 2015, due to a nursing shortage. "I think that it’s going to take a significant investment to develop the Labor and Delivery program in Madras and get it back on its feet again," says Telfer.
Many of the nurses who spoke at Monday night's event talked about the unique care they provide patients. Loredo tells KBND News they're able to offer moms more options than the hospitals in Bend and Madras, "They do not have nurse midwives currently in Bend. They did have them when I was actually going to nursing school. But, shortly after that – I’m not sure what the logistics were – but, all the nurse midwives left St. Charles Bend." She says many expectant mothers seek out the Redmond hospital because of the complimentary partnership between the nurse midwives in the area and St. Charles OB/GYNs. She has heard talk the Bend FBC would reopen to midwives, but that hasn't been determined.
Both Telfer and Loredo say they're also worried about their co-workers, and the team atmosphere they enjoy at the Redmond hospital. St. Charles officials say if they approve consolidation, no jobs will be lost. But, the nurses say there aren't enough Labor and Delivery positions in Bend and Madras to absorb the 29 Registered Nurses currently working at Redmond's Family Birthing Center. They believe that means nurses will be asked to shift to other departments, for which they aren't trained.
St. Charles' Iman Simmons tells KBND News a final decision isn't expected until the end of the year and, if the Redmond center closes, it wouldn't shutter for months after that. However, the Oregon Nurses Association says a "private vote" on the issue is expected Wednesday. Lisa Goodman, with St. Charles Health System, says the Executive Team will meet Wednesday to decide which option to recommend to the Board of Directors. But, she says, the final decision can only come from a vote of the full board, which is expected at a later time.
Photos: (top) courtesy Deena Fitzpatrick. (upper right) Nurses recount their own birth experience, and what it's like to work at the Redmond Family Birthing Center.