New St. Charles Prineville president explains reasons for recommendation and what it might mean for Crook County

St. Charles Health System is considering recommendations to improve the efficiency of obstetrical and gynecological services.

One of the recommendations is to merge the existing Redmond birth center services into its Bend counterpart, resulting in baby deliveries only taking place at St. Charles' Bend and Madras hospitals.

"We offer obstetrical and gynecological services in many places in Central Oregon, and what we are coming to understand is that may not necessarily be the most efficient model," said Lisa Goodman, public information officer for St. Charles. "So in an attempt to achieve efficiencies in the way we deliver care and lower the cost of care for our patients, we are considering a number of proposals and one of them is to consolidate the Bend and Redmond services."

Goodman points out that the occupancy rate of Bend's birthing center is about 48 percent, and the rate in Redmond is about 43 percent.

"If we were to consolidate those two birthing centers, I think that would put us in the ballpark of 60-plus percent in terms of occupancy, which is kind of what we strive for in order to achieve efficiencies, staffing and delivery of services."

John White, the new St. Charles Prineville and Madras president, said that the recommendations took about a year for a task force of physicians, nurses and community members to develop, and at this point, St. Charles leaders are far from taking any action.

"It is absolutely not a for-sure thing," he said of the recommendation. "This is a recommendation that was developed by the group that was tasked to evaluate this overall service line."

Should St. Charles choose to move forward with the recommendation, White points out that the Redmond facility would retain its clinic presence, so expectant mothers could still attend appointments there before later delivering their babies in Bend.

In addition, the consolidation effort would include obstetric and gynecological service enhancements at both the Bend and Madras hospitals.

"There would be a physician on-staff 24/7 who would be available to deliver babies. In the current model, it's not that way," White said. "The physicians follow their own patients. They have a call rotation from their clinic, and they have to come in when called. That's a real strain from a professional standpoint."

Other enhancements would include some OB specialty and urgency care, and work on a Level 3 nursery, which White says is a higher level of care for newborns who need more intensive care.

"That is a big deal," he remarked.

The Madras facility would receive some enhancements in training, and the hospital would have better access to OB services in general because of the geographic importance of the facility to Warm Springs.

At this point, no enhancements at the Prineville hospital are included in the recommendation.

"I don't think so yet," White said. "The Prineville expansion with intermediate care and the rehab services program has been on the top of our priority list."

Having developed recommendations, the next step is to complete some transitional work. White said the recommendations will be passed along to St. Charles' executive care team, and they will take time to thoroughly evaluate and vet them.

"Once that is finished, I am assuming they will move forward with a recommendation to the board of St. Charles Health System to take some sort of action," White said.

That process could take about two to three months, he added, and if a decision is made, it could take many months for the changes to occur.

"Really what we are looking at is how to provide the very best care to our patients in a way that makes sense financially, so that we are not only offering them the highest quality of care, but we are doing it in such a way that it's affordable to them," Goodman said. "That proposal really tries to strike that balance."

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