LOS ANGELES — A recent report published by the California Department of Public Health said black women in California are four times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than the general population.
That same report says some reasons include lack of access to high-quality care and systemic racism. This follows Centinela hospital in Inglewood announcing the closure of their maternity ward — an area that already lacks various resources for women’s health care.
What You Need To Know
- Centinela Hospital announced that it will close their maternity ward in the wake of declining demand for care
- April Valentine died in childbirth at Centinela Hospital in Jan. 2023, following a preventable pulmonary embolism that was missed by nurses
- A report by the California Department of Public Health shows that systemic racism and a lack of access to high-quality care contribute to the high mortality rate in pregnant black women
- That same report says Black and brown women in California are four times more likely to die from pregnancy complications
Mike Mack is all too familiar with the problem. When his first cousin died in childbirth at Centinela Hospital in Jan. 2023, Mack not only grieved her loss but also realized a painful truth.
He sells sweaters emblazoned with roses in honor of his cousin.
“I didn’t get a chance to express to her how much she meant to me,” Mack explained. “I created these [sweaters] because you want to be able to give people their roses while they’re alive and tell people what they meant to you now because you never know when you’re going to lose someone.”
Mack’s cousin, April Valentine, died in childbirth at an Inglewood hospital, after nurses missed the warning signs of a blood clot in her leg.
“She was complaining of leg pain, and they didn’t really know what to do, so they just kept giving her medications to calm her down,” he said.
Now, Mack is dedicated to spreading awareness about the high maternal death rates among black women, which he says comes down to a failure of the system.
“Black and brown women are 3-5 times more likely to die during pregnancy, and so we want to decrease those numbers significantly,” Mack says.
Gabrielle Brown, from the organization Black Women for Wellness, says there are several reasons the statistics are so high.
“Something that we often look at is implicit bias. So prejudgments that folks may not even realize that they have,” says Brown. “It can show up as black women not being heard, that’s something that we hear a lot in the community.”
Brown explains that the closure of the maternity ward at Centinela Hospital means women will have to travel farther to get their health care.
“The nearest hospitals are between nine and 11 miles away. These aren’t close distances we can get to, these aren’t institutions that we can get to within even 30 minutes,” she said.
Centinela hospital gave Spectrum News the following statement about the closure of the maternity ward:
“The demand for maternal health services at Centinela has exponentially decreased over the last several years, averaging fewer than two deliveries a day, whereas the need for other services as grown, such as inpatient behavioral health services during an ongoing mental health crisis.
We would consider restoring maternal child services if there was demand for these services because Prime is committed to serving the community, and the reason for the transition is lack of demand over several years. Centinela Hospital continually assesses community needs and builds hospital services around those needs, ultimately improving the health and wellbeing of the community.”
Mack’s sole focus is now on improving the health care system that failed his cousin, so no other family has to experience the same heartbreak.
“If doctors and nurses took their patients really serious, particularly their pain, it would have been totally prevented. April would be here. We’d be celebrating,” he said.