File photo: Andrew Goff.



From Providence/St. Joseph:

As a result of declining birth volumes across Humboldt County, especially in the Eel River Valley, and the county-wide loss of women’s services physicians, Redwood Memorial Hospital (RMH) plans to close its obstetrics program on July 1, 2021. Childbirth services will be transitioned to the obstetrics program at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka (SJE), incorporating the staff and the legacy of both programs to create a single, high-quality childbirth center, supported by a Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

“Operationally, it’s been very challenging to support both programs. The decision to transition services was not taken lightly and we know this is nobody’s preference,” said Roberta Luskin-Hawk, M.D. chief executive for Providence in Humboldt County. “However, this is a trend that is happening across the country in rural communities. By focusing services at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, we will be able to recruit additional physicians, enhance the hospital as a robust regional medical center, build upon an award-winning program and develop a service line which will be recognized as a center of excellence, while supporting the important role of Redwood Memorial Hospital as a Critical Access Hospital.”

In 2013, the question of the sustainability of obstetrics care at RMH was evaluated and the community partnered with St. Joseph Health (now Providence) to recruit a physician with training in obstetrics and gynecology. Despite that effort and the addition of family physicians with obstetric privileges to Open Door Community Health Centers, the community once again faces challenges with the loss of women’s services physicians and support staff across Humboldt County and the gradual decline of deliveries. Consolidation will further address provider shortage in the county and allow resources to be better allocated at RMH.

Additionally, in a post-COVID world, some pre-natal care can now be delivered closer to home by virtual means. Consolidating programs will further ensure top-tier obstetric and gynecological providers will be on hand to support moms and babies.

RMH caregivers affected by the transition will be offered comparable positions within the obstetrics program at SJE. No layoffs are anticipated related to the consolidation.

“Redwood Memorial Hospital will continue to be a special place and a vital component of Providence’s care delivery network in Humboldt County,” said Dennis Leonardi, Ferndale resident and Chairman of the Community Board for Providence in Humboldt County. “The new acute inpatient rehab unit project at Redwood is just one example of the commitment local hospital leadership has made and will continue to make in the Eel River Valley.”

Plans have been developed to renovate and remodel the existing obstetrics unit at SJE. The redesigned unit will promote a nurturing environment with the latest technologies which will provide an enhanced birth experience for mothers and their babies. Construction will be completed this summer.

“Consistent with our Mission, our goal will always be to focus on the dignity of our patients and the quality and scope of services the Humboldt County community needs, while remaining good stewards of our resources,” said Luskin-Hawk, MD.