Curry General Hospital is temporarily discontinuing its obstetrician services as nurses have retired or moved away and the remaining ones seek more training in that specialty.

Andrew Bair, CEO of Curry Health Network, met with the medical executive committee and administration about the situation and the board agreed it would be in the best interest of all involved to suspend the service for an estimated six months. Currently, the hospital has two midwives and one obstetrician on staff.

An average of 65 to 70 babies are born at Curry General Hospital a year andndash; about a third of all born to Curry County residents. Most other mothers receive delivery care in Coos Bay or the Rogue River Valley area hospitals, he said.

The Gold Beach facility will continue to provide prenatal care, and officials there are capable of helping a mother if delivery is imminent or if a C-section is needed. But most expectant mothers will be referred to Bay Area Hospital in Coos Bay or Three Rivers Hospital in Grants Pass for delivery assistance, Bair said.

"Now, we only have two training nurses for this service," Bair said. "That's the problem. You can't have one person working nights every night and one person working days every day. I feel like we must call a 'time out.'"

He and the board hope to develop a relationship with either Asante Health System in Medford or Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland to obtain the additional refresher and specialty training the nurses in Gold Beach need.

"We have the expectation that all nurses have to learn this," Bair said. "We're (Gold Beach) too little to have everyone in specialized (fields). And we want to make sure all our nurses receive the training so this doesn't happen again," he said.

This situation, Bair said, was bound to occur.

"Probably," he admitted, when asked if the deficiency in some training and rate of attrition was inevitable. "Some of where we fumbled was with my predecessor. This was a service we were not going to continue. By my philosophy, which is supported by the board and administration, is that we're too remote to take that route.

"We have a social obligation to this community," he continued. "And we have a safety obligation to the community, too. We have to be fully staffed with trained personnel."

He wants to assure the community that the quality of care at Curry General will be just as good as anywhere else.

All registered nurses are all taught the fundamentals in medical fields, Bair said. But they usually end up finding a niche they enjoy andndash; say, emergency, osteopathy or elder care, among others andndash; and specializing in that.

"They'll go get their refreshers, demonstrate their competencies and we'll invest in having an OB expert on our campus," Bair said. "We've got a lot of training to do."

And he apologizes to the families whose babies are due in the next six months.

"It feels like failure on my part, but so would putting patients in a situation with overtired staff; we can't do that," he said. "It was a difficult decision, but I'm very certain it's the right decision."