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Community members voice concerns over possible closure of Legacy Mount Hood Birth Center

At a listening session Thursday night, health care providers and mothers voiced their concerns about the planned closure on March 17.

GRESHAM, Ore. — Dozens of people gathered in Gresham Thursday night to ask questions and voice concerns, as well as possible solutions after Legacy Health announced plans earlier this week to close its Family Birth Center at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center in Gresham. 

The hospital system cited a combination of factors such as financial losses, a shortage of workers and a low volume of births compared with other hospitals in the metro area. 

Beginning March 17, pregnant patients who arrive at the hospital's emergency department will be transferred to Randall Children's Hospital or other local hospitals, according to Legacy officials.

In a statement sent to KGW this week, the hospital system said, "We understand that this a difficult and unanticipated change for our staff, providers, patients, the East County community, and for Legacy Health. 

The closure will take place pending approval by the state of Oregon, according to hospital officials. They will also seek guidance on a plan for a temporary or permanent closure.

Many want to keep any kind of closure from happening. During a listening session hosted by Gresham City Council president Sue Piazza and Troutdale councilor Geoffrey Wunn, several said that they consider the hospital's birthing center a lifeline. 

"I just had a baby, Onyx, at the Family Birthing Center in December and she is now six weeks old," explained Micah Wilson. "I had amazing care there. All of the nurses, the midwives, all of the different options, and all of the suites were better than anything that I had seen in the area."

When she heard the Family Birth Center would soon close, Wilson said she was devastated. 

"For the women and the families in this area to not have that option close by, and way out in East County, they're serving people all the way out to Bend that are coming in here with emergency situations, life and death situations, and to add more of a commute to that — you're risking people's lives. Babies lives," Wilson said.

Caregivers and families called the planned closure a tragedy, a danger and a step backwards, putting even more pressure on other departments already overrun with patients. 

"I already care about the community and see the inequity we have for the women in our community now," Piazza said. "But hearing from the nurses and doctors and the ripple effect that it's going to have... It's hazardous to the people and to the employees of the hospital."

Although plans are in place, the Oregon Health Authority must approve the closure. Piazza explained, since it's not yet a done deal, she plans to work to reverse the decision before it goes into effect in less than two months. 

She told KGW both she and Wunn plan to meet with other elected officials and Legacy Health administrators on Friday. 

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