California hospital closing maternity ward as family sues over patient death

Inglewood, Calif.-based Centinela Hospital Medical Center is ending maternal child health services on Oct. 25 amid continued fallout over the death of a patient earlier this year.

The Prime Healthcare facility wrote on its website in July that demand for maternal health has decreased, leading the hospital "to focus on growing other essential services based on community needs."

The hospital has recently faced scrutiny over the death of April Valentine, a 31-year-old Black woman who died shortly after giving birth via C-section at the facility in January. Following her death, investigators from the California Department of Public Health found several patient safety concerns at the hospital.

"State investigators found that for several patients in the labor and delivery unit, medical records did not show appropriate steps being taken to address the risk of blood clots. …" The Los Angeles Times reported, and "faulted for nurses failing to tell a doctor when a patient in labor had concerning readings for their own vital signs or that of the fetus, as well as not following up when the patient complained of leg heaviness."

In August, California fined the hospital $75,000 for "deficient practices" that led to a patient's death, the Times reported.

On Aug. 29, NBC News reported that the family of Ms. Valentine has filed a lawsuit against the hospital, alleging wrongful death and professional negligence, along with demanding a jury trial. 

A spokesperson for Prime Healthcare told NBC it "disputes the allegations made against the hospital and is dedicated to delivering compassionate, quality care to all patients."

"Our healthcare team reflects the varied ethnic and racial makeup of the community," the spokesperson said. "Of note, every physician that currently provides labor and delivery services at Centinela is African American and the majority of the nurses and other team members are people of color."

Centinela told Becker's in a previous statement that it had "taken numerous steps in response to this isolated and tragic incident, including conducting an internal review and fully cooperating with all investigations such as the California Department of Public Health's (CDPH), where Centinela immediately addressed and resolved findings appropriate to the satisfaction of CDPH."

The hospital spokesperson also said the facility was previously designated as a "Baby-friendly hospital" and is "committed to ending preventable morbidity, mortality and racial disparities in California maternity care."

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