Nurses Seek Court Order to Block Closure of Maternal-Child Care at HCA San Jose Hospital
The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United Tuesday filed a suit to block the closure of Women’s Services at HCA’s Regional Medical Center of San Jose, charging that the hospital has acted illegally and in violation of laws to protect the health and safety of the community.
Ignoring widespread concerns from local elected leaders, community organizations and activists, and frontline caregivers, HCA is pushing ahead with a closure planned for May 30.
In a suit filed Tuesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose, CNA/NNU is asking the Court for injunctive relief, asserting that the closure poses an immediate threat to pregnant women, in violation of California’s Health and Safety Code, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, and in violation of its Level II Trauma certification.
Under EMTALA, all hospitals with an emergency department must provide medical treatment in emergency situations to any women in labor who seek such ER services, and as one of only three trauma centers for Santa Clara County would likely to continue to receive expectant mothers as patients who have been victims of trauma, such as a car accident or other critical care need.
Currently, pregnant women who arrive at Regional are cared for by a team that includes registered nurses and other medical staff “who are competent in labor and delivery,” the suit notes. But all of them are scheduled to be laid off as part of the closure.
Now, expectant mothers arriving in the ER may be assigned to nurses who do not have the validated clinical competency to safely care for laboring women and their fetus, especially in the event of complications, nurses have warned.
Further, Regional, the suit contends, “has not trained any Emergency Department RNs to perform fetal monitoring, a critical element of appropriate care for laboring women.” Under the state’s Health and Safety Code, as part of its licensure requirement, an acute care hospital must operate beds for both basic services and maintain special permits for certain supplemental services, including neonatal intensive care beds.
With the closure, Regional will no longer have neonatal intensive care beds, and no fetal monitoring capability in its ER or emergency room RNs certified in clinical competency for at risk fetuses whose mothers arrive in the Regional ER.
Additionally, the Complaint alleges that Regional has violated the Health and Safety Code requirement “to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the community served by its facility is informed of the downgrade or closure.”
However, the hospital has made virtually no effort to warn the thousands of East San Jose women and families who have counted on their nearby hospital for years of the pending closure, even continuing to advertise as late as on or about May 12 its “all new family birthing center” where “mothers and their partners/families can experience the miracle of childbirth in a beautiful, comfortable nurturing environment.”
The Regional website also continued to encourage prospective parents to register to give birth at the hospital and attend classes related to the birthing experience that would no longer be provided – a practice CNA charges in its suit is “false advertising” under the state’s Business and Professions Code and likely to deceive members of the public.
In public protests, nurses have warned that East San Jose residents who have long depended on Regional for maternal-child care will now have to travel a much longer distance for care on some of the state’s most congested roads, or end up in a Regional ER that is ill-prepared for laboring women and their newborns and in violation of state law.
The acts alleged in the suit are a “continuing threat” that if allowed to continue will expose the nurses and the public to “suffer further immediate and irreparable injury, loss, and damage.”