California hospital to lay off 30, including 23 nurses

Ridgecrest (Calif.) Regional Hospital plans to suspend its labor and delivery unit, effective March 1, and lay off 30 employees due to financial and staffing challenges, according to a WARN notice filed with state officials. 

Twenty-three registered nurses and seven other positions within the labor and delivery unit will be terminated Feb. 28, according to NBC affiliate KGET. The hospital said inadequate obstetric providers and a nationwide shortage has contributed to recruitment challenges, and has forced the suspension of the service line program.

"RRH has been working for more than a year to find alternative solutions that would allow us to continue providing labor and delivery services to our community," CEO James Suver said in a statement provided to Becker's. "Although many remote hospitals like ours have been subsidizing service in order to continue access, the impending departures of our current OBs and difficulties recruiting providers to our geographically isolated community expedited the need to issue the 90-day public notice required to suspend service."

Despite the WARN filing, Ridgecrest Regional said it is continuing to explore ways to retain some scope of maternity care and has not definitively concluded which positions will be eliminated if the service line is suspended. 

"In nine days, when the 60-day trigger for the WARN Act notice applies, we will reevaluate and proceed according to the best information we have," Mr.  Suver said. 

The hospital had subsidized labor and delivery services by about $4 million last year, but continuing to make that investment jeopardizes other services. Declining birth rates and reduced on-call expectations have made it more challenging to maintain a safe obstetric clinic in many rural areas.

"When the pressures of our financial crisis demanded action in 2022, we implemented preemptive measures to reduce operational costs in hopes of maintaining a sustainable level of service to our community," Mr. Suver said. "These actions have not been adequate."

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