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Sutter Auburn Faith Family Birthing Center to close

Labor and deliveries will go to Sutter Roseville
By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital is closing its Family Birthing Center. The Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region board of directors announced the decision Monday, saying that labor and delivery services will be moved to Sutter Roseville Medical Center. The closure will impact about 30 nursing and technician jobs, according to Jeffrey Jenkins, Sutter Auburn Faith chief of staff. That’s out of a total hospital staff of 660, Sutter spokeswoman Nancy Turner said in an e-mail. The hope is to find jobs elsewhere in Sutter for those impacted, Jenkins said. “In our region, we make every effort to place employees into positions for which they’re qualified, so that would be something we’ll be looking at,” Turner said. After the center is phased out, local expectant mothers will continue to receive pre- and post-natal care in Auburn, according to a press release. Jenkins, who attended the retreat where the decision was made to close the birthing center, said it has been a long process. “We’ve had ongoing discussions over the past couple of years and certainly over the last few months,” he said. “It has been a concern of ours all along.” When the birthing center was remodeled in 2006, the hospital was seeing a boom in births, with 474 in 2005 and 505 in 2006. Water births were introduced in 2009. In 2007, Press-Ganey ranked the birthing center in the top 1 percent for patient satisfaction, based on a survey of 1,000 hospitals nationwide, according to previous Journal reporting. The delivery rate has since dropped to an average of one newborn a day. No date has been set for closing the center. Jenkins said he would not speculate on a closure date, but that it is “months” away. The impetus for the decision is the near constant turnover of physicians, Turner said. “(Along with that), there’s been people leaving the community,” Jenkins added. “For the number of women who deliver in our area, about half will deliver outside our community. We’re losing half, part of which is related to the hospital system they belong to. (The area also has) an aging population that is contributing to less women of child-bearing age.” Sutter Auburn Faith currently has three obstetricians on staff, and a fourth who is a gynecologist. “(For) mothers in their pregnancy right now, as time goes on they’ll be transitioned to deliver their babies at Roseville,” Jenkins said. “But until the date the unit is closed, they’ll will deliver their babies here.” Jenkins did not have an estimate on cost savings to Sutter. “The decision was not solely based on finances,” he said. “It was a regional decision. It is quality and access to care.” At Kids Closet in Downtown Auburn, owner Denise Cardona said she will be very sorry to see the birthing center close. “My last two children were born there,” Cardona said. “One is now 17 and the one is 13. We had a wonderful experience. We loved it. My labors were unpredictable, so knowing we only had to drive six minutes, we didn’t panic.” Sutter Roseville Medical Center, 20 miles from Sutter Auburn Faith, delivers nearly 3,000 babies a year and is equipped with a neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, for infants born premature or needing advanced levels of care, according to the release. “Our priority is to provide Auburn-area women with the best care for themselves and their babies,” said Richard Kramer, a member of the Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region board of directors. “We believe that this alternative will provide much improved stability, enhance continuity in patient-physician relationships and give the highest quality care to our patients.” Sutter Auburn Faith CEO Mitch Hanna acknowledged that Auburn’s Family Birthing Center holds a special place in the hearts of many residents. “But our community demographics are changing and we have less of a need for labor and delivery services and more of a need for other types of health care services,” Hanna said in the release. “This plan will allow us to provide expectant mothers with the prenatal and post-maternity care they require here in Auburn, while the hospital grows those services that are most needed in our community.” There are no plans yet for how the additional square footage will be used once the birthing center is gone. “It will be evaluated and ideas will be put forward,” Jenkins said. “Hopefully we’ll come up with a viable service in that space for the community.“ Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.