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I should have written this letter a long time ago, because your action on this topic is now urgent. I would like to bring an important issue to the attention of our Napa County community.

St. Joseph’s and Adventist Hospitals are negotiating a Joint Operating Agreement. A JOA is not a merger, it is a contractual agreement in which services are shared and departments consolidated in an effort to reduce duplication of services and cost.

Although there are representatives of both hospitals in various counties in Northern California, Napa County is the only county that is served exclusively by both faith-based organizations, Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa and St. Helena Hospital in Angwin, know known as Adventist Health St. Helena.

As proposed, five years from the approval of the JOA, maternity services will be joined; the Birth Center at St. Helena Hospital will close and Queen of the Valley will assume all services related to maternal health and birth.

The implications for this consolidation are unsettling and unprecedented. If Queen of the Valley Hospital, a faith-based hospital, is the only facility available to women in Napa County, their care will be dictated by the doctrine of the Catholic Church. Women will need to seek care out of the county (Davis, San Francisco) for sterilization, immediate post-birth contraception and standard of care management of impending miscarriage in the presence of a heartbeat.

Already, there is no access to pregnancy termination of any kind or at any gestation in this community. To be clear, procedures to safely end a pregnancy do not occur at Kaiser Napa or Planned Parenthood in Napa. Additionally, when the Saint Helena Hospital Birth Center closes, access to nurse midwifery care, a 30-year tradition in Napa County, will cease.

This was the topic of the community forum that was held several months ago at City Hall. At the meeting with Deputy Attorney General Scott Chan, the voices of support for the JOA came from paid employees of Queen of the Valley Hospital and Adventist Hospitals and representatives from their non-profit foundations.

Voices of dissent came from those of us who want to assure that services that are available to women in other California counties are available to women in Napa County, that we do not receive less than the standard of medical care because we live in this community; physicians, nurses, employees and residents made their opposition clear.

What can we do? The state Attorney General, Javier Becerra, will make a decision by Oct. 31 on the JOA. His options are to: approve the JOA as proposed, deny it, or approve it with conditions.

The position of the California Nurse Midwife Association, the National Health Law Program, NARWAL, CIU and others is to urge the attorney general to safeguard the reproductive rights of women in Napa County. Among these being that Queen of the Valley Hospital/Adventist commit to providing basic reproductive health and family planning services including tubal ligations, long-acting reversible contraceptives, humane miscarriage management, and pregnancy options counseling within an institution of a non-faith-based healthcare organization in Napa. Also, that reproductive health care be available to every Napa resident, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Realizing there is a great deal going on in fire country, I truly appreciate the time you would take to write your note.

Please take a minute to write to Deputy Attorney General Scott Chan at scott.chan@doj.ca.gov right now to express your concern.

Parie Lambert

Napa

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