Last week's forum on the proposal to eliminate Redwood Memorial OB drew more than 400 people to the River Lodge ("Fortunans: Don't Close the Baby Department," Dec. 5). Mothers, longtime Fortuna residents, doctors, midwives and businesspeople voiced their anger at a plan that would extend the drive for laboring women from Southern Humboldt to Eureka. Expectant mothers and the medical personnel who serve them know this is a disastrous plan, increasing the risks to mother and baby. As well, this decision will lead to a loss of jobs and weaken a thriving, profitable and popular hospital.
Until the very end of the meeting, St. Joseph management insisted that the reason for this plan was recruiting: In order to attract doctors and provide high salaries, the births in our county need to be consolidated.
As a practicing midwife for the Redwood Women's Center, I know this "big city" model demonstrates a complete disregard for the needs of our county, as well as an ignorance of how most babies are delivered. Worldwide and locally, 90 percent of babies are born into the hands of midwives. This is the team model underlying the practice of Dr. Jack Anderson at Redwood Memorial Hospital. While Dr. Anderson provides outstanding care for his patients, his team of midwives is a crucial support, serving on the front lines of delivery and helping to prevent OB-GYN burnout. Neither Dr. Anderson (or any other OB-GYN), nor his midwife team, nor the women of Fortuna and points south would benefit from a centralization of care at the hands of SJH. The notion that this is the key to future recruitment of doctors is a fallacious one.
Fortuna residents, medical personnel and the business community have proposed a reasonable compromise: Give us 36 months to recruit new OB-GYNS, continuing to use midwives and family practice doctors as the first line call. If, at the end of 36 months, St. Joseph wants to close down any unit at Redwood Memorial, the people of Fortuna and surrounding county should be ready to take over and fund their own hospital and never have to face this instability again. St. Joseph should support this effort if it has any genuine interest in the health and wellbeing of the mothers and the next generation of Humboldt County.
Stephanie Stone, Fortuna