What started as an orderly public hearing on Wednesday night, Feb. 13, turned into shouting, arguing, accusations, and name calling from the audience as the Oak Valley Hospital board held its first forum on the proposed closing of the hospital’s obstetrics department.
At the district’s Jan. 23 board meeting, CEO John McCormick, citing financial concerns, announced that he would be looking into shutting down obstetrics treatment and child birthing at the Oakdale hospital. The board of directors set up two public hearing dates on the matter for Feb. 13 and Feb. 20.
The first meeting was emotionally charged as the audience, consisting of residents, former patients, and hospital employees addressed the 10-person panel. All were in support of keeping the unit, which delivered 213 babies last year open.
Board President Dan Cummins explained that every department had been under scrutiny for their efficiency of operation.
“This department (OB) has been shown production wise to lose money year to year,” Cummins said adding that OVH obstetrics lost $750,000 last year.
As others from the audience approached the podium and asked about specific losses to the department and alternatives, McCormick explained he was looking to the future of how healthcare would be delivered and changes to the system three to five years out. He added that a state study showed three out of four district residents go outside of Oak Valley for baby deliveries.
“Insurance babies in the marketplace go to other places,” McCormick said. “Oak Valley is a small facility and can’t absorb losses. The tough choices like now would save the ER (emergency room) in five years.”
Other speakers came to the podium asking about obstetrics emergency services with the closure of the unit and if there was any contingency planned. Some inquired how the $750,000 was determined and the expectation of a “whole hospital” when the last bond measure was passed by voters.
Audience members started asking questions from their seats with additional cross-talk among supporters as various board members attempted to answer the slew of inquiries. Shouts from the audience continued as others joined in that a decision had already been made and accusations of some board members’ “body language” indicated that trying to save the obstetrics department was a lost cause.
As McCormick attempted to explain that he was trying to base his decision on anticipated healthcare changes and reimbursements that would not cover losses in the future, he was interrupted several times by shouted accusations and questions.
“I’m trying to explain here, please do not interrupt me,” said McCormick followed by a sharp, “Thank you.”
“Excuse me?” a male audience member snapped from his seat. “Excuse me? That was rude. You’re an a--.”
The audience member got up and left the room, slamming the door. Others followed.
Board members stressed that despite public belief, a decision has not been made.
For the entire story, read the Feb. 20 edition of The Oakdale Leader.