Calmatters: California hospitals keep closing their labor wards. Can lawmakers do anything about it?

In just the first few months of 2024, four California hospitals have closed or announced plans to close their maternity wards.

The closures are part of an accelerating trend unfolding across the state, creating maternity care deserts and decreasing access to prenatal care. In the past three years, 29 hospitals stopped delivering babies, according to a CalMatters investigation on maternity ward closures. Nearly 50 obstetrics departments have closed over the past decade.

Now, California lawmakers are trying to slow the trend. 

Assemblymember Akilah Weber and Sen. Dave Cortese are pursuing legislation to increase transparency around planned maternity ward closures, potentially giving counties and the state time to intervene. 


Cortese, a Democrat from Campbell, wants to increase the public notification requirement of an impending closure from 90 days to 120 days and require the hospital to conduct an analysis of how a closure could increase costs for the county health system, where the next closest maternity wards are located and who is most likely to be affected. 

Cortese’s bill would also require increased notification for planned closures of inpatient psychiatric services.

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