Skip to Content

Planned Redmond birthing center closure sparks dismay


(Update: Reaction from Redmond mayor, Prineville mother)

St. Charles Health System announced plans Monday to close the Redmond Family Birthing Center next summer, calling it “a very difficult decision.” After last week’s unanimous recommendation by the Redmond City Council to keep the center open, Mayor George Endicott not surprisingly was displeased with the decision.

“Most people don’t realize the median age in Redmond is 34 years old. A lot of people think it’s a retirement town, but it’s not,” he said. “It’s a young family town, and these women are prime birthing age. And so to close a center that’s really serving the public is really, to us, a travesty.”

The decision comes after a task force made up of providers and community members recommended it.

Dr. Barbara Newman said closing the center won’t severely affect the safety of births in Redmond and Prineville.

“There’s good statistics and good data to show that if you’re within an hour of your birthing center, wherever that might be from your home or wherever you’re starting from, to where you’re birthing, that the incidence of harm to moms and babies is no greater than if you were just down the block from the birthing center,” Newman said.

Despite that, Prineville resident Renee Tooley, who gave birth to both her children in Redmond, said it’s a blow to rural communities.

“To find out that they’re closing that birthing unit, I’m so extremely disappointed in St. Charles,” she said. “You’re taking a choice away from mothers. You’re putting expectant mothers and babies at risk by having to commute from the areas around us to get to Bend, with traffic and weather. I’m angry and disappointed.”

The organization had publicly discussed the potential in recent weeks, sparking controversy and opposition from the nurses union and Redmond officials and citizens.

Here’s the rest of the news release announcing the move, followed by a critical statement from the Oregon Nurses Association:

“This was not an easy decision to make,” said Board Chairman Dan Schuette. “But as a health system, we must take into account the needs of our entire region and try to best serve as many people as possible.

“By closing the Redmond birthing center, we’ll not only be able to further enhance the services we provide to mothers and babies throughout Central Oregon, but also we’ll be able to invest in areas we heard are badly needed for women like behavioral health and geriatric services.”

As part of the changes to women’s and newborn’s services, an obstetric hospitalist program will be created at the Bend hospital to provide care for laboring patients and manage obstetric emergencies, which has been shown to improve clinical outcomes. Midwifery services will also be added, allowing women with low-risk pregnancies to have additional labor support.

In Madras, resources will be provided to enhance nursing skill and education. The St. Charles Center for Women’s Health in Redmond will remain open to provide prenatal and gynecologic services.

The health system said it will also work hard to minimize the impact to caregivers who work in the Redmond birthing center.

“We’re going to make sure our caregivers have every opportunity to move into a job they feel good about,” said Iman Simmons, St. Charles’ chief operating officer. “No one is going to lose their employment.”

The health system’s leadership team made the recommendation to the board of directors to close the Redmond birthing center after a task force spent 10 months evaluating the women’s and newborn’s service line. That group found the health system’s three birthing centers in Bend, Madras and Redmond are usually at less than 50 percent capacity and that the low volumes led to staffing challenges.

In reviewing demographic data, the task force also found that over the next 25 years there will be an increase in women who are ages 45 to 65, reducing the demand for birthing services in the region.

“Combining birthing services in Bend will make for a more efficient, high-quality care model for our region,” said Newman.

In the coming months, the health system will begin working on its implementation plan, including hiring additional staff and determining the future use of the 12-bed family birthing unit in Redmond.

“We’re going to partner with our caregivers throughout this process to ensure this is an effective transition,” Simmons said. “Working together, we’re going to provide the best care possible for our mothers and babies.”

Oregon Nurses Association Communications Director Kevin Mealy issued this statement on the decision Monday afternoon:

“Over the last few weeks, thousands of nurses, doctors, firefighters, elected officials and parents have called on St. Charles to listen to the Redmond community and keep its family birth center open. Today’s announcement shows St. Charles has decided to ignore its community’s input and to put profits before patients.

“Redmond’s Family Birth Center is a critical health center in a rapidly growing community. It meets a clear community need and provides high-quality, local health care services for families throughout Central Oregon.

“St. Charles decision to permanently close the Family Birth Center is extremely disappointing to patients and health care providers throughout the region.”

Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

KTVZ News Team


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content