After Mesa View Regional Hospital (MVRH) sent out a press release announcing it would no longer provide inpatient labor and delivery and nursery services as of Oct. 1, the Mesquite City Council placed the issue on its agenda for the Tuesday, Sep. 11 meeting.
The council and MVRH administrators got an earful as women, mothers, husbands, doctors, nurses, teachers, and even a small child protested the move.
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. “
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Ned Hill, the hospital’s recently appointed Chief Executive Officer said after public comment and council discussion that it would cost about $50,000 a month to continue providing the services and that it was not cost effective to do so.
He added that the hospital is adding five new primary care providers in the next six months that will help provide medical care for babies, children and adults and help close the gap in pediatric care.
“You [the public] have asked us to bring in primary care providers because you can’t get into to see anyone. It’s a misconception to say that we can’t take care of children because we will have five new providers who can,” Hill said.
“This [OB] decision has been discussed for eight years,” he said. “It is a very difficult decision. There are 11 critical care hospitals in this state. There are three of them left to provide OB. If we discontinue ours, that leaves two. It’s not a matter of want or like. We don’t feel warm and fuzzy about doing this. We don’t have a choice. If we could afford to stay in it, we would stay in it.”
Calling it a “very vital service”, Dr. Theresa Ofori said “Mesa View has not done its due diligence in trying to maintain that service. They have done everything in their power to drive those labor and delivery numbers down. Thus, they purport ‘we are doing everything we can to keep this unit open.’”
Dr. Theresa Ofori, a dentist in Mesquite, is married to Dr. Edward Ofori who has been an OB/Gyn doctor in Mesquite, often the only one, since the hospital opened 13 years ago.
“I propose to the city, I propose to the citizens, and the women especially, this city doesn’t just run on seniors. This city runs on young people and old. We don’t need Mesa View trying to create division between young people and old people. The community needs us both to thrive.”
She said that part of the reason for the falling birth rate was the hospital’s practice of diverting births to St. George and Las Vegas “with the highest number [of diversions] coming in 2017 with over 157 days of diverted services. That will certainly drive down the numbers.”
Steven Lisk, a Mesquite resident, father and attorney, said the hospital was manipulating the numbers to make their case. “It’s easy to see that Mesa View has failed. They have sabotaged their OB department and this is a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Lisk said the council members have also failed the city. “It is not sufficient to put the entire blame on the hospital for the lack of affordable housing, for the lack of services and for the lack of support this city has for young families and its workforce. This is not about size. This is not about city council versus the hospital. This is not about litigating an agreement that may or may not be valid.”
Lisk beseeched the council and hospital to work together to resolve the situation. “You all have a responsibility to this community.”
Most of the commenters applauded the hospital overall and the outstanding care that it gives patients. That is what made so many of them upset about losing the labor and delivery services. And yet, as with most things nowadays, it appears to come down to legalities.
Councilman Brian Wursten and Councilman Geno Withelder have been working with Hill at Mesa View hospital on a variety of issues over the past few months. Wursten said “I know we’ve been down this road before in trying to shut down this service and I’m not for it. Part of the reason this is on the agenda is so that you [the public] can get your voice out there. But this isn’t the council’s decision.”
Wursten addressed Lisk’s comments saying “we do want to help the families in this community. I want to see us grow and help take care of the young people.”
Wursten asked City Attorney Bob Sweetin to explain the legal development agreement between the city and the hospital that was signed in 2002 and purportedly requires the hospital to provide certain services, including an obstetrics unit with a nursery.
Sweetin said that under the agreement, the city gave the hospital the land upon which to build for one dollar. “In exchange, they agreed to provide certain service lines,” Sweetin said. He added that some of the services have never been provided and those were waived by the city.
“The OB service line was of critical importance when the hospital began. It’s still of critical importance,” Sweetin said. “If they are to stop providing the OB services on Oct. 1, my legal position would be that they are in breech of the development agreement. There are a number of things the city could do.”
Sweetin said the city could do nothing, or could go to court and get an order for the hospital to continue providing the service, or the city could get the fair market value of the hospital land and amend the agreement.
“We had discussions with the hospital but were led along to understand that they would work with us on this. But we were given notice of this by way of the press release issued last week,” Sweetin said.
Councilmen George Rapson and David Ballweg both asked Sweetin to conduct a closed-door attorney-client meeting with all of council to further discuss the city’s options and the legal ramifications within the agreement.
Ballweg reiterated that none of the council or city staff want the hospital to discontinue the services it says it will on Oct. 1. He also said that no decisions have been made by the council and that they were trying to gather facts about the situation.
Ballweg also made a motion to direct staff to contact the hospital and formally request them to “delay any closure of the OB services for now or into January pending negotiations. That will give us time to maybe come up with a solution.”
The motion was unanimously approved. However, Hill said the hospital wouldn’t have the required medical professional staff coverage after Oct. 1 to provide adequte services until January.