Temporary reprieve for hospital Obstetrics program

A budget-saving proposal to close Sonoma Valley Hospital’s Obstetrics is on hold after the discovery of a new funding source, according to hospital officials.

CEO Kelly Mather proposed closing the unit, which she said loses $86,000 per month, to the board of directors two weeks ago. That request has been temporarily withdrawn after the hospital was told that Medicare funding supporting the program, which was cut in October 2013, has been restored.

“Now that Medicare funds, which have underwritten a large part of the cost of the hospital’s Obstetrics program in recent years, have been restored, this gives us some breathing room to explore options to continue the services,” Mather said.

The move is only a delay, and not a final decision, Mather said. The hospital will continue to lose money on its Obstetrics services even with the restored funds.

Sonoma Valley Hospital has seen a steady decline in annual births since 2000, consistent with demographic trends. Births at the hospital have dropped from an average of 21 per month in 2000 to around 12 in 2013. The Hospital estimates it needs at least 25 deliveries each month to cover its costs for this program.

“The low volumes are of great concern,” Mather said.

If the trend continues, there will likely be a final recommendation for closure even with the Medicare funding, Mather said.

“We are always faced with some hard choices because our community is so small,” she said.


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