Hospital officials provide options for care following RMCH labor and delivery closure

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GALLUP, N.M. – As the Labor and Delivery Unit at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital prepares to close for the second time in less than a year, one Gallup man shared his family’s experience last fall.

Brandon Drennan said his wife was 35 weeks pregnant, the first time the department closed. She started having painful contractions, and they worried their baby was coming early, so he drove her to the emergency room at RMCH.

“They didn’t have like a normal labor and delivery room setup,” he said. “They put a bed in there for patients, but it looked like the cleaning and maintenance closet.”

Drennan told KOB 4 they ended up going home that night and eventually delivered their baby in Farmington, nearly two hours away.

This is just one example of the uncertainty pregnant women in Gallup will face after Aug. 3. 

Officials with the Indian Health Service said the Gallup Indian Medical Center—across the street from RMCH—is prepared to take on more patients, but only in emergency cases.

“Gallup Indian Medical Center, ‘PHS,’ as we locally call it, is the closest– is the other hospital in Gallup,” said Dr. Marcie Richmond, the Family Medicine Physician with RMCH currently overseeing obstetrics. “It is primarily for PHS beneficiaries, but patients who are having medical emergencies can present there and still receive care regardless of their beneficiary status.”

That includes labor and delivery.

The Indian Health Service sent KOB 4 the following statement:

“As required by law, the Gallup Indian Medical Center provides care to anyone presenting at the facility for emergency medical care, including labor and delivery. The IHS provides emergent and non-emergent care to all IHS beneficiaries. Many of the patients who receive OB care at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital are IHS beneficiaries and may continue their routine and emergency medical care at GIMC. GIMC is prepared and it is making the additional staff adjustments necessary to handle the increased patient volume. GIMC strives to provide quality care to all patients treated at the facility.”

“The closest hospital for non-beneficiaries is Grants, the Cibola General Hospital,” Dr. Richmond said. Cibola General Hospital is nearly an hour away from Gallup.

RMCH officials said they will take their last Labor and Delivery patients Sunday, July 31, so they have time to deliver and recover before the unit closes. They also said the focus for staff now is making sure those who need care following the closure, have somewhere else to go.

“We’re working with our patients to establish care with other local places where they can deliver,” Dr. Richmond said. “So when I see my patients in clinic, or if I haven’t seen them, I can give them a call. I’ve been giving them a list of other local hospitals that have active Labor and Delivery units.”

Dr. Richmond also said the hospital is prepping its Emergency Room staff, just in case.

“The Emergency Room providers are getting some extra training right now, to make sure that they’re up to date on stabilizing these patients,” she said. “If I’m available, or Dr. Jackson’s available, we’ll try to assist with that process as much as possible.”

The hospital’s CEO, Robert Whitaker said there is no timeline for when the Labor and Delivery Unit at RMCH will reopen.

KOB 4 asked the New Mexico Department of Health if and when the state is able to step in. Officials said they can only intervene if the entire hospital is closing. Even then, they would need a court order to intervene.

NMDOH sent us this brief statement in response to the RMCH Labor and Delivery Unit closure:

“The Department of Health is aware of the unit closure. We continue to be in routine contact with Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital leadership and their plans for maintaining continuity of services.”