The maternity ward at Redwood Memorial Hospital in Fortuna will remain open, for now.
"The hospital's intent is to collaborate with the community to successfully recruit new ob physicians into the program," St. Joseph Health spokeswoman Leslie Broomall said on Tuesday, Jan. 7.
St. Joseph Health officials said they looked into closing the ward because it has struggled to obtain and retain new physicians.
Stephanie Stone, a certified nurse midwife at Redwood Women's Center, said she was delighted at the news.
"It was the right decision, and the community is overjoyed about it," Stone said. "It means everything to us."
The 30 to 40 women who deliver at Redwood Memorial each month will not have to change their plans, and the ward will be able to continue providing the same care to Southern Humboldt residents, she added.
St. Joseph Health/Humboldt County board of trustees heard an outpouring of support for the program during a public forum in December, along with concerns about the risks to mothers and their babies if a proposal to consolidate the St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial maternity wards went through, forcing pregnant women from the outskirts of the region to travel to Eureka to deliver.
At the meeting attended by more than 200 people, doctors, elected officials and community members asked for a 36-month recruitment window.
Broomall said the hospital will work with that as the goal.
Dr. Jack Anderson, an ob-gyn at Redwood Memorial, said he welcomes the opportunity to build a bigger, stronger program.
"It will be a boon to our nurses, the award-winning labor and delivery department here who had the best patient satisfactory survey scores," Anderson said. "It will allow patients the confidence to continue to patronize the practice, meaning if you're pregnant and you're going to go to an ob-gyn, you'd sure like to know they're going to be there in nine months when you deliver.
"Hopefully, this is the big breakthrough we've been waiting for," he added.
A framework will be developed to guide the 36-month recruitment process, Broomall said.
"We're all hoping for success going forward," she said.
Lorna Rodriguez can be reached at 441-0506 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LornaARodriguez.