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Hospital Considers Closing Obstetrics Ward
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Citing the financial well-being of the hospital district, Oak Valley Hospital CEO John McCormick announced that he will be looking into shutting down obstetrics treatment and child birthing at the Oakdale hospital. The move, if finalized, will force Oakdale and Riverbank residents to Modesto and Manteca hospitals for nearby child birthing care.

“It’s typical for small hospitals not to have obstetrics,” said McCormick. “It’s a money losing department. It’s a painful decision, but I have to be financially prudent.”

McCormick said the obstetrics unit was losing $750,000 a year and that Medicaid reimbursements weren’t covering all the patient costs.

The announcement to look into closing was made to hospital workers on Monday, Jan. 21 and made public at the Wednesday, Jan. 23 Board of Directors meeting.

The board later scheduled two dates in February for public comment on the issue.

McCormick, who has been CEO less than a year, said he made the call for the proposal because of contending establishments in the district. McCormick named a recently opened urgent care center that now competes with emergency room services and that the other hospitals were also in close proximity, drawing away patients.

During public comment at the Jan. 23 meeting, two registered nurses, Heidi Clavin and Kim Paulus, spoke in support of maintaining the obstetrics unit. Clavin also read a letter from a recent maternity patient.

“Sometimes we have to make hard decisions,” said Board President Dan Cummins. “The decision (to close) will be made with the overall health of the district in mind.”

McCormick said if the plan to close the unit is implemented, he didn’t anticipate it going into effect until after July 1 of this year.

If the unit were to close, up to 20 Oak Valley employees would be displaced.

“It’s a difficult call to upset people’s lives in the workforce,” said McCormick. “These are nothing but model employees and I commend them.”

McCormick came to Oak Valley Hospital as its chief financial officer in May 2011. In October 2011, he was made interim chief executive officer after the Board of Directors placed longtime CEO John Friel on paid leave. The board promoted McCormick to permanent CEO in May 2012.

In other items at the board meeting, the hospital announced that it passed its state safety survey and had no deficiencies or failings in the multi-day inspection.

McCormick also announced that Brian Beck has been appointed Vice President of Human Resources.

The hospital board scheduled the public forums for the potential closing of the obstetrics unit for Wednesdays, Feb. 13 and Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. They will be held in the hospital’s Royal Oak and Charter Oak Rooms at 1425 W. H St.