Petaluma Valley Hospital workers rally to save birthing center

NewsOctober 27, 2020

The long-term future of Petaluma Valley Hospital’s Family Birthing Center is at stake on the November ballot, and NUHW members joined their nurse colleagues and community leaders in making sure that voters make an informed choice.

As part of its agreement to purchase the Petaluma Valley Hospital, Providence St. Joseph Health, is agreeing to keep the hospital open for the next 20 years, but only keep its birthing center open for another five years. The agreement between NorCal HealthConnect, a subsidiary of Providence, and the public hospital district that built and owns Petaluma Valley Hospital, must be approved by voters in November.

“Having a quality OB/GYN as part of our community hospital is an essential service that Petaluma needs and the owner/operator must provide — not only for five years, but as an integral part of its services to our residents,” Petaluma Mayor Teresa Barrett said in a statement promoting the October 10 rally held by workers and community members.

Newsweek recently ranked Petaluma Valley Hospital as one of the nation’s top maternity hospitals. However, Providence, which already operates the hospital, has rejected numerous requests from workers and community leaders to commit to keeping the Family Birthing Center open for as long as it owns the hospital. 

“Bringing babies into the world isn’t a big money-maker for hospital chains like Providence, but it shouldn’t have to be,” said Patricia Lopez, a nursing assistant at Petaluma Valley Hospital. “It’s an essential service of any community hospital — a service that Petaluma needs and that Providence can easily afford to provide.”

Providence has nearly $12 billion in cash reserves and reported a $20 million profit operating Petaluma Valley Hospital last fiscal year. Despite its healthy profits, Providence has understaffed Petaluma Valley Hospital, refused to provide N95s for all caregivers, and refused to test all caregivers exposed to COVID-19.