Oregon urges hospital to keep maternity care unit running

In a letter to Trinity Health and the Saint Alphonsus Health System, Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon urged them not to stop a hospital's maternity services as planned but continue services for at least six months. 

Leaders at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Baker City, Ore., said in late June that they plan to sunset labor and delivery services July 30, according to a report from the Baker City Herald. The closest maternity department from Baker City is a 45-minute, mountainous trek that can be "treacherous in winter," the senators said in the letter. 

The legislators urged Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity and Boise, Idaho-based Saint Alphonsus to continue offering maternity care for the next six months to allow the community more time to prepare. 

Saint Alphonsus said the planned closure is because of fewer births in the area and staffing issues, according to the Herald. Mr. Wyden and Mr. Merkley wrote they understand staffing issues have been a prolonged issue but criticized the systems for the tight deadline. 

In hopes of helping the hospital continue maternity services, they recommended Saint Alphonsus do three things: 

1. Ask the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to deploy registered nurses trained in obstetrics.

2. Capitalize on support from local businesses, including Beef Northwest Feeders, one of the largest employers in the area, which offered to help find solutions.

3. Work with Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek to connect out-of-state RNs with the state's nursing board to expedite the nurse licensing process.

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