Nurses clarify what women’s heath services remain after feb. 28
RIDGECREST REGIONAL HOSPITAL (RRH) –
Following the Nov. 30 announcement that Ridgecrest Regional Hospital would be suspending labor and delivery services after Feb. 28, 2024, staff of the Women’s Health Clinic have been hard at work finding plans for continuing care for expectant mothers who will not be able to deliver in our community hospital.
RRH announced last month through two employee forums, as well as a series of public news releases, that the lack of obstetrical providers and inadequate funding had forced closure of the local maternity program. RRH is one of dozens in the state and hundreds in the nation to make that decision in the last few years, as provider shortages and funding models have put labor and delivery wards in jeopardy.
“Everyone here is deeply saddened by the necessity to suspend OB services here at RRH,” said Daphne Unhassobiscay, director of the Women’s Health Clinic.
However, she and a team of nurses — including Nickie Rothwell, Siena Martin and Alfie Johnson — are working together as “OB Navigators.” So far the team has attempted to reach out to each OB patient expected to deliver after the suspension of service.
“We do have a handful of patients that we have been unable to reach, but we look forward to speaking with them when they come in for their OB visits,” said Unhassobiscay.
She estimated that the clinic serves anywhere between 220 and 250 pregnant patients at any given time.
“We are here to assist our patients to make their transitions of care as smooth as possible,” said Rothwell. After patients have determined who will take over their obstetrical care, the medical records staff will help facilitate a release of records to the new provider. Registered patients can also access records online through the patient portal. (See also “Release of Information Request Form” available at rrh.org.)
“All of us here at Women’s Health Clinic advise our patients to initiate the transfer process as soon as possible,” said Unhassobiscay. “Choosing and establishing a new provider quickly will help ensure a smooth transition with no lapse in your prenatal care.”
The staff added that having follow-up care scheduled may alleviate stress and uncertainty during this critical time. “As always, our staff is here to answer questions, address concerns, and assist in the process,” said Rothwell.
The team confirmed that the clinic will continue providing routine gynecological care after Feb. 28. These services include Well Woman visits, annual exams, pap smears, birth- control counseling and surveillance, breast exams, STI screening, hormone therapy, and other female- related issues.
“We all look forward to being able to provide this care to the patients in our community,” Johnson said. She said that patients have also expressed concerns about seeking care for newborns, and she confirmed that the pediatric clinics will remain open to all children in the community.
In the meantime, RRH administration, board members and community partners continue to explore solutions that will help restore labor and delivery services.
“We look forward to the time when full OB services are restored,” said Rothwell. “We hear your frustration and disappointment and we desire to assist in making this transition as painless as possible.”
“All of us will miss our OB patients and wish everyone the very best,” said Johnson. “It has been our pleasure to serve you these past years and value the relationships we have built together. We trust that we will have the opportunity to serve you after your OB care is complete and continue to be your primary gynecological providers.”
“Our hearts go out to everyone in the community who has been impacted by this decision. We are certainly doing everything we can to find alternatives to our present crisis,” said James Suver, RRH CEO.
“I know that our staff are doing everything they can to look out for their patients. Many of our clinicians have spent decades at this hospital serving family, friends, and neighbors. We are going to make sure people have help in the short-term, and we pray our policymakers and leaders are putting the same energy into long-term solutions.