It was the last item on the Mesquite City Council meeting agenda for Tuesday, Sep. 25. But it never quite made it that far.
At the beginning of the meeting, Mayor Al Litman asked city attorney Bob Sweetin to provide the public with an update on the city’s request for Mesa View Regional Hospital to not close its Obstetrics unit as of Oct. 1 as the hospital previously announced.
That’s when Sweetin announced that the city had filed a lawsuit against Mesa View for “violating the provisions of the 2002 development agreement” that requires the hospital to provide an obstetrics unit with a nursery.
“We also filed for a restraining order which would hopefully prevent them from closing down OB on Oct. 1. We lucked out and got a Friday morning [Sep. 28] hearing date. So we are basically going to be arguing this at the eleven-o’clock hour. Hopefully if we are successful on that, OB would not close on Oct. 1. The hospital would be required to keep it open. Then we will move on into further stages of litigation,” Sweetin said.
Sweetin remarked that no hospital representatives were attending the council meeting saying “I think they are in litigation mode at this point. They’re not in open discussions with us. They’re not interested in talking to us. I would note that I think we are doing everything we can at this point to preserve the development agreement.”
Officials with Mesa View hospital could not be reached for comment at press time.
Mesa View issued a press release Aug. 31 announcing that it would “no longer provide inpatient labor and delivery and nursery services as of Oct. 1.”
That set off a firestorm of protests from Mesquite residents.
The city council discussed the issue at its Sep. 11 meeting. Appearing that night, Ned Hill, the hospital’s recently appointed Chief Executive Officer said 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.”
The city sent a letter to Hill on Sep. 12 making a formal request that Mesa View not close the OB unit as currently proposed. The letter asked that a potential closure of the unit be delayed until Jan 1, 2019 allowing the city and the hospital “to engage in meaningful discussion related to the development agreement and seek a solution that serves the long term interests of the residents of Mesquite.”
Of the 11 critical care rural hospitals in Nevada, only three have OB services. If Mesa View closes its services only two will continue providing the services.
Sweetin explained at the council’s Sep. 11 meeting that the legal development agreement between the city and the hospital signed in 2002 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.