Gresham hospital could lose license over impending birth center closure, OHA warns

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 6:22 PM PDT
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GRESHAM Ore. (KPTV) - The Oregon Health Authority is threatening to reprimand Legacy Health over the hospital group’s decision to close its Mt. Hood Birthing Center in Gresham.

Back in January, Legacy Health originally announced that the birthing facility would be shut down and patients would be rerouted to the Randall Children’s Hospital for delivery. Legacy said birthing services would end after Jan. 16.

According to the OHA, hospitals in Oregon are required by state law to be granted permission, in the form of a waiver, before they can forgo birthing services at their facilities.

According to OHA, the authority has not granted a waiver to Legacy Health’s Mt. Hood Medical Center.

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A letter sent by OHA, in early March, to Legacy Health administrators outlined the scope of repercussions that could go as far as revoking the hospital’s license with a “90-day termination for non-compliance with state licensure requirements.”

An email from OHA officials shows that Legacy Health administrators applied for the waiver on March 6, just 10 days before the birthing center’s impending closure. However, OHA replied to the application with a list of further questions, indicating that enough details had not been provided.

OHA said there is no timeline for when a waiver might be approved.

In a statement, Legacy Health said it doesn’t have enough staff to safely operate the birthing center, so it will remain closed after Thursday.

It’s been a hugely controversial issue over the last several weeks in Gresham and beyond -- sparking backlash from not only community members and hospital staff, but also local state lawmakers and city leaders.

Fox 12 spoke with one mother who lives in Rhododendron.

Jezrai Hower said getting to the Mt. Hood Birthing Center take her 45 minutes at a minimum. She plans to have another child and said being forced to deliver in Portland would put her health – and any future children – at risk.

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“You are sacrificing the safety of our health – of women’s health – of any birthing parent’s health,” Hower said of Legacy’s decision to close the birthing center. “You are sacrificing our well-being; it’s not fair.”

Legacy Health told Fox 12 that staff are working on completing the required information to re-submit the waiver request to close the birthing center.

In its statement, the hospital system said it initially never planned on asking OHA for a waiver – or approval – to close and instead was working on what Legacy described as a “new care model” for patients but was unable to find viable solutions, leading them to just apply for the waiver just a couple of weeks ago.

On average, two or three babies are born each day at the Mt. Hood Birthing Center.