Temporary restraining order denied; Hospital OB unit closes

At a last-minute hearing on Sep. 28, the city of Mesquite was seeking a temporary restraining order that would prevent Mesa View Regional Hospital from closing its inpatient labor and delivery and nursery services as of Oct. 1.

The court denied the city’s request presumably allowing the hospital to follow through with its plan announced Aug. 31 to close its Obstetrics unit.

In its court documents, the city argued that MVRH is required to provide certain services under a development agreement signed between the two entities in 2002 for at least 20 years. The agreement allowed the hospital to ‘rent’ the ground upon which the hospital was built for one dollar annually.

In 2010 the hospital purchased the land from the city for one dollar. The city claims that “Neither party at that time understood that transaction to have any effect on the 2002 Development Agreement unless a provision was rendered moot or had been perfected through the purchase of the land.”

The city contends that the hospital began diverting obstetric patients in late 2014 or early 2015 unless an obstetrician was on duty or when a birth was scheduled. That, says the city, put an extra burden on Mesquite Fire and Rescue personnel who were required to transport patients to either St. George, UT, or Las Vegas.

When MRVH sent out a press release on Aug. 31 announcing a complete closure of the labor and delivery and nursery services, the city council placed the issue on its agenda at the Sep. 11 and Sep. 25 meetings. At the first meeting, the council directed city attorney Bob Sweetin to send a letter to the hospital requesting the services remain in place until at least Jan. 1, 2019.

Sweetin said in the court documents that “preliminary discussions were fruitless and MVRH made clear their intent to only negotiate if the city would be willing to front the entire cost of the obstetrics department while it remained open and assume all liability for any obstetrics procedures.”

The city told the court that the closure of the obstetrics unit will continue placing an undue burden on the Mesquite Fire and Rescue Department who “will be left scrambling to ensure paramedics are properly trained for worst-case scenarios.”

The court filing also says “The city was informed the decision to eliminate obstetrics and the nursery was made, at least in part, by the Board of Directors of MVRH, a body established by the 2002 Development Agreement. Upon information and belief the city has learned that information was not accurate and at the time of the filing of this complaint, the Board of Directors of MVRH has taken no formal vote or formal action item on whether to breach the 2002 Development Agreement.”

Ned Hill, the hospital’s Chief Executive Officer, told the council and public at the Sep. 11 meeting that it would cost about $50,000 a month to continue providing the services and that it was not cost effective to do so.

The hospital cited a declining birth rate in Mesquite as the basis for its move saying “Over the past several years the demand for inpatient obstetrical services has decreased by more than 74 percent. In 2008 Mesa View had 236 deliveries for the year as compared to only 63 deliveries in 2017, or about 1 delivery per week.”

Hill said that the hospital’s emergency room was prepared, equipped, and staffed to handle birthing mothers who come there on an emergency basis.

Hospital officials were not available for comment regarding the latest court action at press time.

According to city officials, the next step will be for the council and city to decide whether to file a preliminary injunction preventing the service closure.

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