Burbank Hospital to Close Obstetrics Unit

Times Staff Writer

Burbank Community Hospital, which has had its share of problems, will close its obstetrics unit Friday because of a significant decline in patients, hospital officials said.

It will be the first time that babies will not be delivered at the hospital since it opened in 1907, said Bill Daniel, hospital director.

"I see it as sad and disappointing," Daniel said of the hospital's decision to cut its services. "We certainly have regrets."

But Daniel said a sharp decline in the number of deliveries performed in the last two years gave the hospital no choice. He said the hospital, which at one time averaged between 50 and 60 deliveries a month, now averages about 15.

"When you have one delivery every other day, it doesn't cover the cost to have a staff ready and available," Daniel said. Keeping the obstetrics unit in operation costs the 102-bed hospital about $50,000 a month, he said.

Hard to Compete

One reason for the decline in the number of expectant mothers using the hospital, Daniel said, is that the aging facility cannot keep up with larger and better equipped hospitals, such as nearby Glendale Adventist Medical Center and St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank.

Another reason was Los Angeles County's decision to terminate its contract with Burbank Community Hospital in March, said Sebastiano Sterpa, chairman of the hospital's board of trustees.

Sterpa said the hospital could not keep up with the number of county-funded patients using the facility. "The hospital's too small," Sterpa said. "There's only so many things we can do."

He said Burbank Community will reevaluate its decision to close the obstetrics unit in November, when it receives the results of a joint survey with St. Joseph Medical Center. The purpose of the survey is to determine if it is feasible for the two hospitals to combine certain services, which may include obstetrics, Sterpa said.

No Layoffs

In the meantime, Daniel said cutting delivery services will not result in layoffs of hospital personnel. Instead, the hospital's five obstetric nurses will be assigned to other departments, he said. The closing of its obstetrics unit is only the latest in several upheavals at the hospital.

In 1988, the hospital's chief administrator, Jurral Rhee, resigned under pressure from doctors who were unhappy with his performance. The physicians said Rhee's attempts at cutting hospital costs had damaged patient services and compromised the quality of health care.

During Rhee's administration, the hospital was investigated by the county Department of Health Services following complaints that it was not administering proper care to indigents. The investigation revealed deficiencies in administrative procedures, emergency treatment and health-care monitoring.

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