Nurses call for community action to oppose closure of Sutter Solano maternal child health services
RNs say closure would cause harm to families, create patient safety crisis for mothers and babies
Registered nurses are calling for the community to stand with RNs in opposition to the planned closure of maternal child health services, including labor and delivery, at Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo, CA. The nurses, members of the California Nurses Association, received notice on February 10, 2021 that the services—also used by the neighboring cities of Vallejo, Benicia, American Canyon, Napa and Fairfield—would close, removing a critical support for the delivery and postpartum care of local women and infants.
“This decision was made in haste, at the expense of patient safety” said Zita Hodge-Wren, a registered nurse in Sutter Solano’s labor and delivery unit. “When we questioned Sutter about the details of this planned closure, the responses gave nurses little to no confidence that patients experiencing real complications will be safe. Birth complications require swift action and experience, with life-threatening consequences for the mom and baby if not handled properly.”
The medical center cited in a recent memo to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) that the reason for this closure is a “low hospital delivery census.” Nurses believe this is another way of saying “low profits,” as the closures are woven in the fabric of Sutter Health’s business model. Over the years, nurses have fought against Sutter closures ranging from units to entire hospitals, and successfully protected access to care for numerous communities. Sutter Solano is yet another move on the corporate healthcare chess board, say nurses.
“Sutter Solano is pressing us to move forward and not question this decision,” said Stacie Leach, RN, a labor and delivery charge nurse of six years. “As nurses, we always put our patients first, especially in these times. We have a duty to object when an assignment is unsafe, and closing vital services is no different.”
In a February, 2020 North Bay Business Journal interview, Sutter Solano CEO Abhishek Dosi cited being named to the state’s 2019 Maternity Care Honor Roll for reducing cesarean births as a major accomplishment of the organization. Nurses say that despite paying lip service to caring about mothers and babies, if Sutter Solano actually cared, the hospital would keep maternal child health services open.
As of early March, nurse leaders have challenged Sutter Solano regarding their plans for notifying the public about this planned closure. To date, the medical center has published a small paragraph in the newspaper. No signage is posted, and nurses believe the community remains uninformed.
Nurses pushed further for details on what will happen when expecting mothers, often in crisis, present in the emergency department with complications that may be life threatening to mothers and unborn babies. According to nurses, the responses were underwhelming, with very few details on support.
“The emergency department cannot become an ad-hoc labor and delivery unit. As the pandemic has shown us, we need safe and experienced care for patients, not theories and hoping for the best,” said Jolayne Haines, RN, an emergency department charge nurse at Sutter Solano for 19 years. “The pandemic’s community impact has been severe; this planned closure adds more stress to a deeply challenging situation.”
The California Nurses Association has 100,000 members and is affiliated with National Nurses United, the largest and fastest growing union of registered nurses in the United States, with more than 170,000 members nationwide.