OMAK – The idea of making Mid-Valley Hospital a regional obstetrics center is becoming reality with the decision by Brewster’s Three Rivers Hospital to close its obstetrics department next spring.
“I feel bad for Three Rivers,” said Alan Fisher, CEO of Mid-Valley Hospital and a proponent of regionalizing services.
North Valley Hospital, Tonasket, closed its obstetrics unit earlier this year.
Decisions by clinics, who employ the obstetricians, drove decisions by both North Valley and Three Rivers to end their newborn delivery services.
Family Health Centers decided to move its obstetrics service to Mid-Valley Hospital as of April 1, 2020.
“This is the end of an era for Three Rivers Hospital,” said Three Rivers CEO Scott Graham. “We have long prided ourselves on our top-notch OB program. We’re sad to see it come to an end, but we support Family Health Centers’ choice to centralize OB services in order to keep this invaluable service available in Okanogan County.”
Family Health Centers’ Medical Director Dr. James Wallace explained during the Oct. 2 Three Rivers board meeting that the decision was made because Family Health Centers has struggled to recruit more physicians to Okanogan County.
Hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Best said Three Rivers Hospital administration spent the following month gathering data, running financial analyses, and having discussions with Family Health Centers leadership and providers regarding the future of obstetrics at Three Rivers.
Based on the analysis, hospital officials determined the financial resources needed to recruit the necessary physicians would be too significant. The board determined it wouldn’t be feasible to continue OB services without the Family Health Centers physicians.
Three Rivers Hospital records an average of 90 births per year.
In July, Mid-Valley had 20 deliveries, bringing the year-to-date total to 108.
Confluence Health announced last winter that its doctors would no longer provide obstetrics services at North Valley. The ability to provide cesarean sections was a particular concern.
That prompted leaders of Okanogan County’s three hospitals to talk about the possibilities of additional cooperation and possibly designating specializations at each facility.
Mid-Valley Hospital commissioners were briefed March 12 on early discussions by the administrations of Mid-Valley, North Valley and Three Rivers hospitals.
In May, Fisher said the hospital districts talked about “what it might look like” if the three cooperated even more, perhaps by designating one as an obstetrics center, another as a long-term care and rehabilitation hub, another as a surgery center and so on.
Area hospitals, clinics and doctors began working on ways to coordinate and provide obstetrics services to patients county-wide, Fisher said.
Dr. Jennifer Thill, Mid-Valley chief medical officer, told the Mid-Valley board in May that doctors are looking at OB care on a county-wide basis, not just by community. Doctors have met separately from the main hospital group.
“We will look at combining services to provide OB care to the county,” she said.
By August, Mid-Valley had added new equipment to its obstetrics department and had absorbed North Valley Hospital’s obstetrics load. It also gave its obstetrics department a facelift.
With a fresh coat of paint and a new partnership with BluElephant Photography, mothers and babes began seeing artwork of local newborns on the wall, as well as a Mid-Valley-provided, complimentary gift basket and professional photo of their baby after delivery.
With the help of the Omak-Okanogan Civic League and the Mid-Valley Hospital Foundation, the hospital also was able to secure a brand new BiliSoft Blanket to treat jaundice in newborns. Other planned additions include new, state-of-the-art patient monitoring systems, Panda baby warmers and some room remodeling.
Coulee Community Hospital, Grand Coulee, also offers delivery services. Ferry County Memorial Hospital, Republic, has not offered an OB unit for several years.