Santa Paula Hospital to close maternity ward, meeting set with councils and county

December 03, 2003
Santa Paula News

On the heels of Santa Paula Memorial Hospital announcing that it will soon be closing its obstetrics department, representatives of SPMH, the City Councils of Fillmore and Santa Paula and County of Ventura were scheduled to meet this week to address saving the “Hospital on the Hill.”

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesOn the heels of Santa Paula Memorial Hospital announcing that it will soon be closing its obstetrics department, representatives of SPMH, the City Councils of Fillmore and Santa Paula and County of Ventura were scheduled to meet this week to address saving the “Hospital on the Hill.”The maternity ward will suspend operations effective Dec. 13th and thereafter accept obstetrics patients in cases of emergency only.The board of the financially ailing hospital made the decision last week citing the difficulty in finding nurses. Among the hospital’s almost 400 creditors is at least one temporary nursing staff providers.About 850 babies are born each year to families in the Santa Clara River Valley communities of Santa Paula, Fillmore and Piru; last year, 282 were born at SPMH. For many years the Hospital Auxiliary gifted the family of each newborn with a car seat for the trip home and to ensure that the parents were aware of the importance of keeping the little one strapped in.The hospital asked the state Department of Health Services for permission to suspend the obstetric operations from anywhere from six months to three years.Although last week the City Councils of Santa Paula and Fillmore agreed to split the cost of a mediator, the move was not without criticism from members of the council.Councilwoman Mary Ann Krause said after discussions with hospital and county representatives, areas of “misunderstanding and miscommunication” came to light that she believes can be successfully addressed.
An entrenchment of positions can hamper negotiations, noted Vice Mayor Gabino Aguirre, who urged that although sides can agree on an objective, the “devil is in the details,” that could benefit from a mediator.“I don’t think the mediator is going to have a magic wand to make the debt go away,” said Councilman Ray Luna, who with Krause was named to a negotiation sub-committee.Councilman Rick Cook said “spending $15,000 to save the hospital (Santa Paula’s initial portion of the cost) seems like chump change,” and SPMH owes the city about $12,000 for utilities.A major problem is ascertaining SPMH’s exact debts and although Cook added that he supported funding a mediator, he questioned the results. “I’m really uncomfortable with it but to benefit the whole community and Fillmore I will go along with it.”“If in some way the two cities could save health care in the valley and a major employer to boot,” all attempts must be made, said Krause.City Councilwoman Mary Ann Krause said Monday that a meeting was scheduled for Dec. 2nd between the representatives of the cities, SPMH board and county without a mediator, who has not yet been retained.“I’m still optimistic that we can do something,” Krause noted.



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