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Tri-City suspends labor and delivery unit amid financial constraints

On Thursday night, the Tri-City Medical Center Board of Directors unanimously voted to suspend the hospital's labor and delivery unit indefinitely.

The move was not unexpected. In a memo to the board, the hospital district’s administrative team recommended suspending the unit because of “current and expected financial losses.”

Tri-City chief strategy officer Aaron Byzak said this was a temporary decision while the hospital works to finalize a partnership with another health system.


“That's why we call it a suspension and not a closure," he said. "So the goal is to suspend in lieu of an affiliation that will, you know, bring back patients at some point in the future, and we think that there's a lot of opportunities out there.”

The suspension is expected to take effect on Oct. 1. It includes labor and delivery, postpartum services and the neonatal intensive care unit. The hospital has been caring for newborns since it opened in 1961.

Byzak said several factors led to the decision, including low birth rates.

The closure is part of a nationwide trend. A recent report by the research firm Chartis shows 217 hospitals in rural areas have closed their labor and delivery units.

Locally, Paradise Valley Hospital closed its labor and delivery department two years ago. Palomar Health in Poway consolidated services with its Escondido hospital in June.


The new Kaiser Hospital in San Marcos, which had its ribbon cutting Friday, however, wasn’t a factor as it only provides services to Kaiser members.

For Tri-City, trouble started when Vista Community Clinic decided to refer expectant mothers to Palomar — a move that the San Diego County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) approved.

“We fought that very hard because we didn't think it was actually fair or legal what happened," Byzak said. "But unfortunately, we're not successful in fighting that.”

As a result, the average baby delivery dropped to about one a day. Byzak said that volume wasn’t enough to sustain the unit.

For Byzak, the decision affected him more personally.

“I was born at Tri-City. My brother, my sister, all my cousins, and even my son was born in Tri-City," he said. "My wife went into labor on my 30th birthday, and so my son was almost born exactly 30 years later in the same hospital.”

Byzak remains optimistic that the labor and delivery department will reopen. He’s calling it a “rebirth,” but he said it’s difficult to say when that is.

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