Gresham birthing center closes despite staff, community fight

Published: Mar. 19, 2023 at 10:12 PM PDT
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GRESHAM Ore. (KPTV) - The Mt. Hood Family Birthing Center in Gresham officially closed Sunday despite the weeks that staff and community members fought to stop the closure.

In an emotional video, many can be seen walking out of the birthing center and leaving their positions behind.

Teddy Glemser, an Emergency Department Charge Nurse at the hospital, said women’s health took a “major hit” as a result.

“They’re sad, they’re disappointed,” Glemser said. “They are angry. They are embarrassed.”

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Legacy Health says the birthing center had to be closed due to lack of staffing, but Glemser claims that isn’t true. Instead, she said staffing wasn’t an issue until the announcement of the closure had been made and staff began to leave.

“I feel it’s very unsafe,” Glemser said. “It’s irresponsible. I feel embarrassed that [expecting mothers are] going to be coming to this hospital looking for help and we can’t provide it for them.”

She said if an expecting mother arrives at the hospital doors, they’ll be taken to the emergency department. There, they’ll be assessed, and it will be recommended whether they need to stay or be transferred elsewhere. A transfer that won’t be cheap, Glemser said.

“It’ll end up being our visit, a bill for transport and then they’re going to have another admission bill for a hospital in the local area. If they choose to stay in the emergency department, they’ll be surrounded with chaos.”

She called the department busy and chaotic in nature. Describing it as a shared space with other patients, some with mental or behavioral health problems.

“I feel any experience for a laboring mother should be one of peace and calm. You’re bringing a new life into this world.”

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Glemser said caring for pregnancies will mandate emergency staff to be taken away from their already busy schedules. Which is something she said many, including herself, are uncomfortable with. Especially with the only 24 hours of training that she said staff in the department have received.

“I’m concerned that death will happen in our emergency department. Whether it’s a mother, or whether it’s a newborn child. I don’t feel safe and comfortable in being a part of that process.”

She said she has resigned from her position, and her “final day will be at the end of this week.”

Aside from being a nurse, Glemser has personal experience at the Mt. Hood Birthing Center. It is where her 8-year-old and 4-year-old children were born. And now, pregnant again, she was expecting to deliver at the same birthing center where her first two children were born.

“Now, I’m going to have travel even further to a different health system and those babies can come out really fast. I’m concerned I won’t be able to make it to the next hospital.”

Glemser said her last child came in 45 minutes, which is roughly the time it would take her to get to the next nearest hospital, Randall Children’s Hospital. However, she’d prefer to try the drive and take the risk, than have the emergency department at Mt. Hood deliver her baby.

“I would rather deliver my child at home or in my car trying to get to another hospital.”

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At last check, a waiver submitted to the Oregon Health Authority to close the birthing center is still yet to be officially approved. Glemser is hopeful the OHA may come through for them and reopen the doors of the birthing center.