In the midst of everything going on with Covid-19, it is likely that many have forgotten that Los Alamos Medical Center (LAMC) will cease to have any sort of OBGYN or Women’s health after June of this year. Since January, women’s health, OBGYN services, and Labor and Delivery have been conducted by Locum doctors (traveling and rotating on a schedule) and there is no plan to continue these services nor is there anyone hired to fulfill these services after June (Unless these services have been extended, however no one in the community would know this, due to the complete lack of communication from LAMC about this issue to the community).
These are essential services necessary for any hospital, specifically one that used to have more than 100 births a year. This number has dropped in the past couple of years to fewer than 60. The hospital has been trying to argue that this is a result of folks not having as many children, however the overall birth numbers in the county have remained stable. Many families have chosen to go elsewhere for care (Espanola, Santa Fe, Albuquerque) as they cannot count on a) having a reliable stable doctor that they can form a relationship with who will care for them, and b) that L&D will even be open when they need it (In the past year, L&D has been closed twice with no notice for extended periods of time, families have been told at the last minute to “find somewhere else to go if they are going into labor”).
The hospital doesn’t want to admit that the reason birth numbers are low at LAMC is not because people aren’t having babies, it’s because families in Los Alamos cannot trust that LAMC will have competent, stable, comprehensive OBGYN care at their facility for the duration of a pregnancy. If LAMC hired permanent provider(s) and made commitments to the community that the L&D unit would not be shut down with no notice and regain the trust of the community that they care about families, this number would likely rise again (and quickly) as many would choose to have their children at LAMC
As a group of citizens in the community, we demand better from our hospital. LAMC is consistently one of the highest grossing hospitals in the Lifepoint system as everyone is well insured, and can easily afford to recruit staff at competitive salaries. Additionally, with the knowledge that Los Alamos County through Council Chair Sara Scott, State Rep. Christine Chandler and Los Alamos National Laboratory through Frances Chadwick have met with the CEOs of LAMC and representatives from Lifepoint and no progress has been made towards ensuring that the community will be provided this essential health service. It is clear that the hospital does not value or prioritize women’s and family health. To continue to recruit to Los Alamos using the line “this is a great place for families” seems a bit disingenuous, as you can’t actually have the care to have a family up here.
The removal of these services has significantly affected many of your neighbors and friends personally. The following are direct stories from community members who have been impacted, are being impacted, or would have been impacted with no women’s health or L&D at LAMC. Although there is a lot going on right now especially with Covid, this is a continuing issue. The lack of attention to resolving this public health issue does not inspire confidence that LAMC is competent at solving other public health issues, now or in the future. If L&D is cut, what is next? What population will be the next to lose an essential service?
- I cannot go out of town for maternity and family care, as I do not have enough sick time from my job to go to out of town appointments, and cannot request extra time to do so. My ONLY option is to go locally to LAMC. The lack of a consistent provider and the knowledge that L&D may not be open when I need to deliver because there will be no provider has placed a significant burden on our family. I shouldn’t have to choose between maintaining my employment or attending prenatal appointments as we build our family.
- We came to this town taking into account the consideration of family medical services available, the OB/L&D services are a vital part of the services we considered. During my time here, I have had 3 children all at LAMC, and labor, delivery, and postpartum care were excellent every time, I felt heard, safe, and confident in the care both I and my babies received. My second pregnancy was difficult, and the knowledge that I could run to the hospital at any time (and it was closeby) was invaluable for my peace of mind. My third pregnancy was again difficult, and the issue was compounded by the lack of consistent care at LAMC from the OBGYN staff at the time. The doctor was frequently out of town, with locum staff to fill in when he was unavailable, so emotionally the experience was much more difficult. The birth of our child was quick and complicated, however, due to the expertise of the L&D staff at LAMC she pulled through. Had we needed to drive to a different hospital further away, our story might have ended differently.
- I tend to have very short deliveries (<3 hours from the first contraction to birth for all 5 of my children). Had I needed to drive further away than Los Alamos, I may not have made it all the way to the hospital before my children were born. Additionally, being able to deliver at LAMC means that my child’s pediatrician is in the same building, and I can start building a relationship with them and they can check on my child the day after they are born to make sure there are no initial concerns. LAMC also has a great lactation consultant and lactation support, that would be lost if L&D and OBGYN services were no longer available
- I recently had an emergency postpartum hemorrhage, and, although we delivered elsewhere due to lack of consistent care at LAMC, I was rushed to LAMC. Had I needed to go further and OBGYN services had not been available at LAMC, I would not have made it through the situation. My experience with the nursing staff on the OBGYN unit and the Locum doctor who treated me was all exceptional. If LAMC could offer consistent and reliable care both on the L&D unit and with the OBGYN doctors, I would absolutely plan to have any future children at our local facility.
- My first child was born at LAMC, and I had a very positive experience. Our second child, however, was supposed to be born at LAMC, but due to decisions by the management and staff, we had to be rushed elsewhere for their delivery. When I was pregnant with our second, I was not happy to have to be seen by three different providers and not have any sort of consistent care with an OBGYN doctor. During this time, there were no female OBGYN doctors either, something I strongly prefer as an option, and is likely turning many people away as this is a preference for many. Having the option of a male or female OBGYN would go a long way to increase the number of births at LAMC. Additionally, many have been nervous to have children at LAMC recently due to the closure of the L&D unit with no notice, and a fair number of less than positive stories from other community members about their births at LAMC. Conducting internal reviews and due diligence around operations to make sure patients are satisfied and feel in control of their care, will go a long way to increase the number of families that feel confident about having children at LAMC. Most pregnant women don’t want to travel long distances for care if they don’t have to, period.
As community members, we demand answers from LAMC (who has been silent on the issue to the community so far). We demand consistent reliable care for this essential service at LAMC and want answers and action showing commitment to our community from the LAMC and Lifepoint management.