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Gresham, Ore. (Pamplin Media Group) — Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center announced it will close its birthing center in East Multnomah County, meaning local parents will now have to travel into Portland to welcome a baby into the world.

The decision, which was told to staff Friday morning, Jan. 27, has been brewing for a few months. Like many health care providers across the region, Legacy has been struggling financially post-pandemic. There is a need to cut down on expenses, and the birthing center made the most sense at Mount Hood because of its relatively low birth rate and high costs.

“We have been focused on financial actions to fulfill our mission and continue essential services,” said outgoing President Bahaa Wanly.

“This was not a decision we took lightly,” added Chief Medical Officer Holly Tse. “This is a big change, stressful for everyone involved.”

The date set to close the birthing center is Friday, March 17. Current expecting mothers with a due date before that time will still be able to give birth at Mount Hood. Everyone else will need to work out a new place to give birth. Legacy’s plan is to redirect folks, including any East County emergency pregnancies, to Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel, 2801 N. Gantenbein Ave.

“We will be working directly with our patients to help them with a birthing plan,” Wanly said.

The 50 employees at the Mount Hood birthing center are being given “preferred applicant” status, to allow them a leg-up in finding a new role within the Legacy system.

Meanwhile Legacy Mount Hood is creating a new care model for expecting parents. Out-patient midwifery services will continue in East County, with the babies delivered at Randall Children’s Hospital. There are plans to expand local gynecological services, including robot-assisted surgeries. The team is also crafting emergency protocols, as well as a system to support high-risk pregnancy care.

Christopher Keizur is a reporter based in Gresham, Ore.