Legacy’s Closure of Family Birth Center Rejected by OHA


The Lund Report

A group of people protesting Legacy’s closure of Mt. Hood’s family birth center.

In January, Legacy Health announced that the Family Birth Center at Mt. Hood Medical Center would close, and on March 17th, it was shut down. However, this decision did not get state approval, so when the Oregon Health Authority received Mt. Hood Medical Center’s request for a waiver to shut down the birth center, the request was denied. This will cause problems for the hospital, who said they would not have sufficient staff to support the birth center after March 17th, according to KGW. 

Initially, Legacy did not intend to completely shut down the birth center; rather, they planned on restructuring it to lower costs, since they have been affected by the same staffing and capacity issues as many other hospitals. However, according to The Oregonian, four of the seven doctors that worked in the family birth center opposed this new plan, so they left the center, which Legacy claims left them no other choice but to shut it down. 

Anyone seeking labor and delivery services will now be redirected to other hospitals in the Portland area, such as Randall’s Children Hospital in North Portland. If people show up and are in urgent need of labor and delivery services, they will have to give birth in the Emergency Department, but OHA states that staff members in the Emergency Department are not sufficiently trained to do this. In addition, the Mt. Hood Medical Center serves many people in the Mt. Hood area, such as Welches, so these people will have to travel even farther to receive labor and delivery services, which many people are concerned about. Many patients of Legacy’s family birth center were non-English speakers, and this hospital also serves many low-income people, which OHA explains is one of the reasons they rejected the waiver to close the center. 

Along with receiving opposition from the state, Legacy’s decision to close the family birth center received significant backlash from concerned members of the community. There have been rallies to discourage the closure, and hundreds of people, including many nurses, gathered on March 17th to protest. Emergency department nurses that attended shared their lack of confidence in the department’s ability to properly provide care for women in labor, KTVL states. Many others expressed concerns for women who now have to travel to North Portland to give birth safely.

Legacy now has 90 days to reinstate the services of the family birth center. If they do not, they will lose their ability to get reimbursement from Medicaid, which is for low income Oregonians. Oregon Live explains, “Gresham City Councilor Sue Piazza recalled fundraising efforts to open the center more than two decades ago and now worries the women will suffer as a result of its closure. She said the birth center serves neighborhoods with some of the highest concentrations of poverty in the state.” Medicaid provides reimbursement for these low-income patients. The Mt. Hood Medical Center will suffer greatly if it loses this reimbursement, and the entire hospital may not survive these funding cuts if the birth center is not reopened. It is still unknown if Legacy will reopen the Family Birth Center, but many community members, nurses, and other hospital staff members are continuing to support the family birth center.