Mendocino Coast District Hospital Board of Directors June 22 2017

Unanimous vote 5-0 to keep OB

Editorial by Marianne McGee, MA/ABS

After devoting June 22 Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) Board of Directors meeting to the continuing saga of whether or not to keep the Obstetrics/OB services intact, they voted 5-0 to keep OB open.

Dr. Peter Glusker requested that the original motion be amended to add “for three years”, in order to give Mendocino Coast Clinics adequate assurance to recruit an additional provider, which will reduce MCDH expenses. While that was done, President Steve Lund threw in the caveat “as long as it is financially viable” which was also added to the amended motion.  This left me thinking that it was really no commitment at all and we could be back here same time next year.

Planning & Finance Committees volunteer John Allison provided an overview of the Ad Hoc OB Committee Report for the standing room only crowd. Many people who participated in that group, including Mendocino TV were unhappy with the process and the report itself.  The issues were related to the poor leadership of Chair Kevin Miller and the lack of unbiased research on options and how to improve current care. The only positive outcome is Mendocino Coast Clinics offer to reduce physician costs by hiring a second provider. Mr. Allison began by saying he supports OB only if it can be done economically; citing a common fear that keeping MCDH open is the priority.  Many people have expressed a desire to further study and strengthen the OB department with more competent leadership.

There was an emotional outpouring of passion and support for continuing OB, as well as some additional pertinent information. Lucresha Renteria, MCC Executive Director, clarified the contributions made by that organization to the OB program and reducing MCDH expenses. Dr. Kerman spoke on behalf of the medical staff, hopeful it is done right. He clarified some aspects of the report, including the fear of ER staff covering OB patients in crisis.

Community members and medical staff pointed out heartfelt and sometimes tearful issues including:

  • Prenatal care needed months before the birth, which means people would need to live in Ukiah.
  • Given the number of MediCal births, it also becomes a class and race issue.
  • Loss of these families will have a negative impact on our community including the loss of workers and children.
  • Damaged children are a cost to the community long term with expensive care and educational needs.
  • Superman Dr Donavan Spencer brought up the fact it’s disingenuous not to present the Ad Hoc OB Committee minority’s report and fathers need to be involved.
  • Impact on sexual assault victims increases trauma.
  • Overhead costs of OB would still be allocated to other MCDH departments, so savings are diminished.
  • Deaths of women and children will be on the MCDH Board’s heads!
  • OB crisis comes on very quickly!
  • Not in line with the MCDH mission to close OB.
  • Closing OB is leading to the death of the hospital.
  • Cotton auditorium filled and gave you the message, what have you done-it’s not enough!
  • Woman in labor losses senses, should not have to worry about where and how to get there to deliver.
  • Disheartening to live in a community that doesn’t support births and children.
  • There is talent in this room for grassroots community action, please don’t throw it away!
  • It was requested that the three minority reports to the Ad Hoc OB Committee Report also be distributed!

On the other hand Journalist Malcolm Macdonald brought up some of the difficult and unanswered questions that contribute to the hospital’s problems including the Cal-Mortgage liens on all MCDH assets, CEO Edwards firing 4-5 strong women, the MCDH board needs to own their issues and the issue of inequity with a parcel tax.

While the overall Board discussion was relatively short, the most eloquent remarks came from Dr. Peter Glusker, who championed retaining OB from the initial proposal to slash it, over a year ago. He pointed out issues including:

  • OB failed looking at solutions, mcc steps into breach, so why is it still open?
  • OB is an economic scapegoat as other departments lose money
  • Poor working conditions for MCDH staff
  • ethical and economic considerations make it critical to keep OB open
  • Parcel tax is not enough money to make the hospital stable
  • There is not enough transparent financial information available
  • The MCDH debt is extremely high and needs to be communicated.
  • Long term financial plan is critical.

This MCDH Board meeting is relatively short and is well worth watching in its entirety, as community members come forth and share from their hearts. Let’s hope this question is now answered and whether to slash OB will not come around again next year!

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