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Ensuring long-term access to high-quality health care

Ensuring long-term access to high-quality health care

It is understandable why some residents of the Santa Clara Valley are upset over the recent announcement to relocate Labor and Delivery and Intensive Care services from Santa Paula Hospital to Ventura County Medical Center.

The difficult decision was made after months of careful consideration, evaluation, and discussion with key leaders. We believe that this will promote the long-term sustainability of Santa Paula Hospital.

On June 17, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved the Fiscal Year 2024-2025 Budget. In turn, the recommendation to relocate Labor and Delivery and ICU services 14 miles away to Ventura County Medical Center was finalized.

More: County approves budget plan to shut down OB and ICU at Santa Paula Hospital

Santa Paula Hospital is not closing and will remain open and ready, with a 24-7 Emergency Department, expanded availability for surgical services through access to an additional operating room, and gastroenterology services. We will continue to provide Santa Clara Valley residents with the compassionate care our staff is known for.

While there have been concerns voiced, as well as inaccuracies communicated, about these changes, it is imperative to understand that this decision was rooted in several pivotal factors. These factors are aimed at enhancing the ability to deliver high-quality care to Santa Clara Valley residents, and to support the long-term sustainability of the hospital as we continue the planning process for the new Santa Paula Hospital.

Healthcare industry dynamics are constantly evolving. It’s not uncommon for the industry to be influenced by shifts in the insurance landscape, patient preferences, population demographics, and advancements in medical technology.

Our responsibility as a healthcare delivery system, and public safety net system, is to evaluate the impacts these factors have or will have. We then can initiate strategic changes that allow us to meet the evolving needs of our patients.

Despite numerous multifaceted efforts, which included traditional marketing, grassroots communication and strategic collaboration with local community partners and healthcare stakeholders, we, like many communities across the state and nation, saw a continuing decline in birth rates as well as the number of women delivering their babies at Santa Paula Hospital. As we have also seen, this has shaped the decisions of other hospitals, including local area hospitals, to no longer provide labor and delivery services.

Similarly, while our Emergency Department volumes have increased, the number of patients that required ICU level care at Santa Paula Hospital has also declined.

Relocating labor and delivery services to VCMC affirms our dedication to ensuring that expecting mothers in the Santa Clara Valley and greater Ventura County have access to the highest levels of comprehensive and specialized care.

VCMC is a Level II Trauma Center (only one of two trauma hospitals in the county), a training hospital, and home to the county’s only Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and oldest Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

More importantly, women’s healthcare services will not disappear in the Santa Clara Valley. We will continue to provide pre-natal, post-partum, and comprehensive women’s healthcare services through our four primary care clinics in the Santa Clara Valley, staffed by the same team of excellent providers.

This restructuring will in fact enhance our commitment to providing women access to essential healthcare services close to home. As well, it will continue to address healthcare inequities for Latina women, through expanding in-demand services such cancer screenings and the early detection and treatment of cancers such as breast and colon cancer.

Looking ahead, plans for a new hospital in the region reflect our commitment to prioritizing, modernizing, and providing the best in healthcare services and facilities to Santa Clara Valley residents. This initiative will continue to involve careful planning to anticipate and accommodate the healthcare needs of a growing population.

We look forward to continuing to provide high-quality, compassionate care to our community.

Dr. Minako Watabe is the Chief Medical Officer of Santa Paula Hospital and Ventura County Medical Center and OB/GYN.

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