As Oregon health officials threaten sanctions against Legacy Mount Hood at the eleventh hour over the planned closure of the birth center, pregnant patients are being diverted to other hospitals.
Despite questions and concerns via the Oregon Health Authority, which must give approval on a waiver to officially see the Family Birth Center closed, the long-stated Friday, March 17 shuttering has effectively held.
Because of Legacy’s reported staffing woes, it is unable to safely admit patients to Legacy Mount Hood’s birthing center, regardless of where the OHA is with its deliberations. Thus Legacy will “essentially operate on divert status for labor and delivery.”
All scheduled deliveries will be sent to Randall Children’s Hospital. Pregnant people who arrive at Legacy Mount Hood with a pregnancy-related need will be seen by a provider and then transferred to East Portland.
Earlier this year Legacy announced the Family Birth Center, 24800 S.E. Stark St., would be closed due to financial struggles within the healthcare industry emerging from the pandemic. When faced with closing a department, the birth center was chosen because of its low birth rates when compared to other hospitals within the system.
That decision sparked rallies and protests from local parents, former employees, neighbors, and elected leaders across party lines. The latest to sound the alarm, and perhaps the one best situated to muck up Legacy’s plans — the Oregon Health Authority.
Days before the Friday, March 17, closure, the OHA released a statement. According to the organization, emails have twice been sent to Legacy Mount Hood, on March 2 and March 13, one of which included a warning for non-compliance with state licensure requirements.
Legacy said it initially “did not plan to request approval to close the Family Birth Center,” instead shifting to a new model of care. But hospital administration said due to “unexpected staffing vacancies and voluntary departures,” a decision was made to apply for an OHA waiver, which was done on March 6.
The Oregon Health Authority, which oversees the licensing of hospitals, confirmed that waiver request had been received, though it had further questions about the situation. There is no timeline for that process, which is needed to officially close the birth center. It is unclear what will happen if the OHA denies the waiver.
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Christopher Keizur is a reporter based in Gresham, Ore.