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Our Women’s Health Clinic staff remind their patients and community that our local clinic remains open for many services. / Courtesy Photo

Ridgecrest Regional Hospital focuses on acute needs during financial crisis

CEO offers clarity on impacts on women’s health, mental health, physical therapy

Ridgecrest Regional Hospital (RRH) As the March 1 suspension of labor and delivery services draws near, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital leadership offered clarity on how strategic suspensions and cuts will impact its service lines.

“There are two issues that continue to drive operations — inadequate reimbursements and a shortage of providers,” said RRH CEO Jim Suver.“As we navigate those two factors, our team has continued to prioritize the most acute needs in our community.”

OB navigation for pregnant women

The OB navigator program — led by Siena Martin, Nickie Rothwell, and Alfie Johnson and supported by the entire women’s health clinic team — has facilitated the delivery or transfer of care for all but a few dozen of its 200 patients.

The clinic staff has helped patients find providers in surrounding communities, including Bakersfield, Bishop, Lancaster, Valencia, Santa Clarita, and Loma Linda.

A question that has continued to arise in the wake of the notice for suspension of service is what pregnant women should do in the case of an emergency.

Hospital leadership noted that, as with any medical emergency, a pregnant patient should call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room. Operators and emergency-care personnel are trained to assess and decide on the best medical care for the emergency.

“We still have several dozen patients who have not transitioned to a new provider. Right now, we have prioritized those who will be delivering in March as well as those with high-risk pregnancies,” Daphne Unhassobiscay said.

“I want to thank our patients who have worked with us. We all love our patients and this community, and after people have safely delivered their babies, we want them to know we will be here for them.”

Women’s services are still offered.

Four providers — including nurse practitioners Alessa Siler and Mariah Pietrangelo — will remain at the clinic to provide well-woman visits, annual exams, PAP smears, birth-control counseling and surveillance, family planning, post-partum depression treatment, lactation counseling, breast exams, STI screening, hormone therapy, and other female-related health issues.

To make an appointment, call 760-499-3640.

Tele-psych services continue

The loss of grant funding and ongoing provider shortages have resulted in some positions in the mental health clinic being eliminated. However, Suver affirmed that patients can still access psychiatry and counseling appointments through telemedicine.

“Our tele-psych program has provided critical access to our patients over the last two decades, and we are looking for ways to expand that,” said Suver.

He said that because other counselors provide support in our community, RRH will continue to focus on access to physicians for mental health support.

Pediatric PT and adult OT continue.

RRH recently announced that effective Feb. 1, it will suspend outpatient physical therapy services for adults.

Program Director Ashley Allen said that the decision was driven to prioritize therapy services for pediatric patients, as well as adults in need of occupational therapy and speech-language pathology.

“We are re-directing our staffing pool to support home-based therapy, inpatient therapy, and support at Bella Sera,” she said. “In the coming months, we will continue to evaluate this decision to ensure that we are responding to the most critical needs in our community.”

“Even though we recognize the difficulty our patients and community are facing, every action we take has been in the interest of providing the highest access to healthcare possible in our community,” said Suver.

“Our staff continues to work tirelessly to find creative solutions to the massive challenges for healthcare providers.”

Suver said he also wanted to thank the members of the public who have reached out with support. “Rural healthcare is facing challenges that were not created locally and cannot be fixed at the local level. We will continue to work with our elected officials and policymakers at the higher levels of government to find solutions that restore access to healthcare in our remote regions of the country.”