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St. Charles Madras still out of baby biz for now


Birthing services at St. Charles Madras will continue to be diverted to other hospitals while the facility stabilizes its staffing situation, officials said Tuesday.

St. Charles Madras has been in a temporary divert status for OB services since July 10 due to a staffing shortage. The hospital had hoped to resume normal operations this week, but will now suspend birthing services indefinitely.

“It’s not acceptable for us to be on divert like this — I know that,” St. Charles Madras CEO Jeanie Gentry said Tuesday. “It can be a matter of life and death whether we have OB services here.”

The hospital blames its actions on a national problem — a shortage of OB-GYN nurses around the country — and the smallest hospitals feel the squeeze the most.

“Some people come and they try it, and then they say, ‘I think I want to go to a bigger place,'” Gentry explained, adding that St. Charles Madras has a lot of staffing turnover.

“With small hospitals like ours, it’s difficult for some people,” she said. “You have to wear a lot of hats, it’s not just the baby care — you have to do some of everything.”

Gentry said recent research has revealed more than half of Oregon’s 25 smallest hospitals — including Pioneer Memorial Hospital, replaced next month by the new St. Charles Prineville– have permanently ended birthing services.

The St. Charles Health System vows that won’t be the case in Madras, and mothers NewsChannel 21 spoke with echoed that sentiment.

“It’s a huge disappointment for the community, huge disappointment for the staff,”said Madras mother Karen Affeldt. “I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a contraction or multiple contractions on my way down the highway.”

But that’s exactly what expectant mothers could face. They’ll have to give birth at St. Charles Redmond or in Bend.

“Building a relationship with your care provider is what helps make your labors more enjoyable,” said Nina Nelson, a Madras mother of four. “So if you don’t even have that, it kind of makes it just really clinical — like you come in, you have a baby, you go home.”

Felicia Jeffery wrote on KTVZ’s Facebook page: “I just had to have my baby in Redmond on July 27th because of this. It’s truly sad that we lost OB here, because for some women they might not be able to make it to Redmond or Bend. But I do have to say, the staff in Redmond were amazing! If I were to have another baby, I would go there. “

Currently, St. Charles Madras has four nurses trained in OB. They need at least 10 of those nurses to start delivering babies again.

Last year, the hospital delivered more than 180 babies, many mothers driving more than an hour just to get to the Madras birthing center.

“A lot of those women are higher-risk pregnancies,” Gentry said.

The hospital is currently recruiting OB nurses through a nationwide temp agency. They also have two positions open, and have sent other nurses to Bend and Redmond for OB training.

There’s no timeline when this birthing center will reopen. It could be months.

In the meantime, officials said, St. Charles Madras will continue to have one trained OB nurse on each shift in its Emergency Department.

The hospital advised that expectant patients should continue to work directly with their physicians to develop clear plans of where to go when they are in labor. St. Charles Madras will keep physicians informed as key developments happen at the hospital, they said.

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