Las Vegas, NM (June 24, 2022)—Alta Vista Regional Hospital announced today that the temporary suspension of Labor and Delivery services at the hospital will be made permanent.
“This is not a decision we make lightly, and we understand the impact on women and families in our community,” said Caleb O’Rear, CEO of Alta Vista Regional Hospital. “If keeping the labor and delivery unit open was an option, we most certainly would. But unfortunately, it is not.”
Alta Vista’s only OB/GYN, Dr. Joseph Charles, passed away unexpectedly but peacefully in his sleep on May 7. This sudden death left the hospital and community without a full-time OB/GYN physician to deliver babies. “It took months to recruit someone to this position, and he was the second OB hired in three years,” explained O’Rear. “We have actively conducted nationwide searches for an additional OB provider to join our medical staff and temporary OBs to fill in call days and shifts long-term or short-term. Unfortunately, these efforts have been futile.”
“Since 2017, Alta Vista Regional Hospital has worked diligently to maintain quality labor and delivery program. We made every effort to maintain the service. Unfortunately, the factors that led to its original closure in 2016 remain—we have been unable to recruit long-term staff and the demand for services is decreasing. Most recently, since the start of this year, the hospital only averaged three deliveries per month.”
San Miguel County now joins the more than 25% of other New Mexico counties that do not have hospital-based maternity services1. In fact, 40% of U.S. counties have no identified childbirth care provider2.
“We are not alone. Rural provider shortages are pervasive and worsening, especially in New Mexico. That is the sad truth and one that our community cannot solve alone,” said O’Rear. “We struggle to meet the minimum requirement to have two obstetrics registered nurses present during delivery, one for the mother and one for the baby, following guidelines from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurse, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Academy of Pediatrics.”
“Ultimately, we want healthy moms and babies,” said Alice Elliott, BSN, RN, Chief Nursing Officer at Alta Vista Regional Hospital. “Prenatal care is so important. Alta Vista continues to offer ultrasound, imaging, and lab testing for pregnant women. New moms can also receive breastfeeding support through Las Vegas Medical Group.”
Moms in active labor can still receive care in the Emergency Department. If you feel like you cannot make it to another hospital, don’t feel like you are alone. The ER physicians and nurses at Alta Vista Regional Hospital can evaluate and care for you.
“Alta Vista Regional Hospital remains a place of healing for our community. A place to turn to in a medical emergency. A place to get answer —whether through diagnostic imaging or lab work. A place you come to gain strength and move better with physical therapy. A vital place that contributes to the health and wellness of our great community” concluded O’Rear.
The hospital is working to assist patients to transition prenatal and OB/GYN care elsewhere.
About Alta Vista Regional Hospital
Alta Vista Regional Hospital is a community hospital committed to serving the healthcare needs of Northeastern New Mexico. We proudly offer a 30-minute ER pledge, which means the ER medical professionals work diligently to see patients within 30 minutes (or less) of their arrival at the ER. Online scheduling with a primary care provider is available 24/7 at AltaVistaAnytime.com. For more information on available services, please visit www.AltaVistaRegionalHospital.com.