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Protesters gather at Southwest Memorial Hospital after closure of birth center is announced

‘I think everybody is angry. It certainly is detrimental,’ organizer says
Protesters stand in front of Southwest Memorial Hospital on Thursday (Shylee Graf/The Journal)

More than 50 people gathered Thursday evening in front of Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez to protest the closure of the Family Birthing Center.

Materials to make signs were available at the protest, and many people took the opportunity to share their thoughts.

Signs showed phrases like, “We need a birthing center here,” “Keep our babies local,” and “Care close to home, unless you are a woman.”

Southwest Health System on Wednesday announced the temporary closure of its family birthing center at Southwest Memorial Hospital, effective July 1.

The hospital birthing center will stop taking new patients at 7 a.m. on June 28 and “temporarily” close on July 1, according to a news release from the hospital’s public information officer, Chuck Krupa.

No reopening date was provided.

Lindsay Yeager, former spokeswoman at Southwest Health System organized the protest via a Facebook announcement. She told a Journal reporter that women having birth-related emergencies are in danger if the birthing center closes.

“Not having resources for even one day poses a risk,” she said.

Yeager also expressed concerns for expecting mothers living in Towaoc or people who may not have access to a car to get to Mercy Hospital in Durango.

Yeager announced to the group that she would like to have a public forum with the hospital to allow people to voice their concerns directly to the board. Otherwise, the next board meeting is June 28.

Dr. Jessica Kaplan, a gynecologist at Southwest Memorial Hospital, said that she was “devastated by this quick decision.”

“We want to do everything we can to help women and maternal health,” she said.

A protester told a Journal reporter that he doesn’t think the closure is temporary.

Among the protesters were hospital staff and several children, as well as mothers with their babies or expecting mothers.

One staff member has four children. Her oldest, Anastasia, spoke to the Journal reporter.

Protesters hold posters toward the road in front of Southwest Memorial Hospital (Shylee Graf/The Journal)
A hospital staff member and her daughter hold up signs (Shylee Graf/The Journal)

“I’m 11 years old and I think it’s wrong to take my mom’s job,” she said. She added that having a baby in the ER can take a long time and be stressful, which is why she thinks the birthing center needs to stay open.

Ultimately, protesters would like to have a conversation with the hospital and express their concerns.

Yeager urged people to go to the next board meeting to express their concerns if a public forum is not held.

“The next board meeting is June 28, and the center closes on July 1. It’s hard not to think that was intentional,” Yeager stated.