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OB/GYN at Coast Hospital

What is the average age of a woman in Mendocino?

We'll follow up on the age quiz, but let's return to the Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) agenda for its January, 31, 2019 Board of Directors meeting. Tucked in among eleven closed session items lay this: Consideration of legal advice re: “Potential Litigation, Government Code Section §54956.9(d)(2), ACLU information.”

The (d)(2) portion of the government code states, “For purposes of this section, litigation shall be considered pending when any of the following circumstances exist: A point has been reached where, in the opinion of the legislative body of the local agency on the advice of its legal counsel, based on existing facts and circumstances, there is a significant exposure to litigation against the local agency.”

The same “Potential Litigation” item appeared again in the March MCDH Board agenda. Nothing of substance was reported out to the public on this item at either the January or March meetings. A “New Business” open session item on the same topic in March was tabled without discussion.

The topic was essentially tabled again at the May 30 board meeting. Two residents spoke in favor of the hospital bringing back abortion services. Dr. John Kermen, chief of MCDH's Medical Executive Committee (MEC) said that everything was a go for that to happen. He and board president, Karen Arnold, stated that the only remaining obstacle was a final approval by legal counsel.

The last elective abortion performed at MCDH occurred in June 2014, five years ago. In the interim, women needing abortion services have been directed over the hill to Planned Parenthood in Ukiah, to Santa Rosa, and points beyond in the Bay Area.

For at least that long MCDH and its partner in obstetrics and gynecological (OB/GYN) services, Mendocino Coast Clinics (MCC) have failed to procure any long term OB/GYNs beyond a single practitioner, Dr. Brent Wright. 

This takes us back to our quiz. The average age of a woman in Mendocino is 55. In Comptche, the average female's age is 60.

Fort Bragg remains the only major community in the coastal health care district where the average woman's age is under forty, just barely, at 39.4 Those statistics derived from a presentation by MCDH board member Amy McColley at a planning committee meeting this spring. Given that the Mendocino Coast has become much more of a retirement, and early retirement, locale, gynecology looms ever larger as a needed service as well as potential revenue producer for MCDH.

McColley's presentation to the MCDH Planning Committee focused on laparoscopic hysterectomy surgery. Laparaoscopic hysterectomies differ from abdominal hysterectomies in that the abdominal method requires a large incision, usually a two full day stay in the hospital, and approximately two months recovery time. Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure. It leaves virtually no scar, patients are often out of the hospital the morning after the surgery, and recovery is complete in two weeks.

Laparoscopy is widely employed in appendix and gallbladder surgeries, but in the world of gynecology acceptance by older school doctors has come more slowly. Even though studies from 15 to 20 years ago concluded that laparoscopic hysterectomies have few complications, produce less blood loss, and result in shorter hospital stays and greatly reduce recovery time, there are still OB/GYNs who have refused to get themselves trained in laparoscopic procedures. Dr. Wright is one of those OB/GYNs.

Since Dr. Wright has refused to perform laparoscopic surgeries, and he remains the only long term OB/GYN on the coast for many years now, it is obvious that a good number of women go elsewhere for laparoscopic surgeries, thus costing this healthcare district a significant loss in revenue.

During that same planning committee meeting at which board member McColley made her presentation, she and the committee chair, Jessica Grinberg, as well as other committee members, expressed a desire to actively recruit for an OB/GYN who would provide laparoscopic hysterectomy surgery. The hospital possesses the necessary equipment, they just need the talent.

At the end of the meeting, Lucresha Renteria, executive director of Mendocino Coast Clinics, which pays about half of Dr. Brent Wright's salary, rose and expressed her great “dismay” that MCDH officials would dare to recruit OB/GYNs, implying that OB/GYN recruitment was solely her bailiwick.

What is truly dismaying is the leader of one healthcare facility, which has failed to recruit a second long term OB/GYN for years, possessing the audacity to claim sole rights to recruitment when the health, safety, and ease of treatment for coastal women is on the line.

(For past articles on MCDH, check out the AVA online archives or

One Comment

  1. mr. wendal June 23, 2019

    We definitely need another OB/GYN and I don’t care who recruits that person. Ms. Renteria’s upset was curoiusly odd.

    There hasn’t been local upset in the past that elective abortions haven’t been performed at MCDH. It doesn’t make sense that it could be a deal-breaker with Adventist. Have they submitted a proposal? There are many elective surgeries, and some tests, that we in the district must travel to have performed elsewhere.

    I’m eager to learn about the proposal by American Advanced Medical Services to take over the hospital. Do they want to lease or buy or lease/buy? They took over Palm Drive Hospital in Sebastopol earlier this year and turned it into a long-term acute care facility, closing its emergency room. They do also provide “urgent care” but they have no emergency services. We’re too far away from ER alternatives for our emergency room to close.

    I hope Mr. MacDonald will investigate American Advanced Medical; they’re expanding rapidly, picking up hospitals that have closed or were on the brink of closing. But it has all happened so recently and quickly that they have no track record. At this moment, they are not my first choice. I hope they aren’t our only choice.

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