Community Seeks Solutions After Inglewood Hospital Ends Maternal Health Care

Community Seeks Solutions After Inglewood Hospital Ends Maternal Health Care

Centinela Hospital Medical Center’s labor and delivery ward closes Wednesday at midnight, leaving a gap in reproductive health care for Inglewood residents.

The closest hospitals with comparable services are between 8 and 10 miles away and take nearly an hour to reach by public transportation from Centinela.

Prime Healthcare, which operates Centinela, announced this past summer it would end maternal child health services amid declining demand for care and after the January childbirth death of a Black woman.

More than two dozen people gathered in Inglewood Monday night at a meeting hosted by Black Women for Wellness to share their concerns about the loss of health care access and brainstorm how to move forward.

“Accountability does not look like removing essential healthcare access,” said Onyemma Obiekea, policy director for the non-profit health education and advocacy organization. “Accountability looks like improving the quality of healthcare.”

About this story

  • This story is a follow-up on an investigation published in February 2023. Read our initial reporting on April Valentine’s death and her family’s fight for accountability, including by filing a lawsuit against her health care providers.

  • This story talks about the death in childbirth of a pregnant Black woman and disparities in maternal and infant health.

  • If you’d prefer, you can also explore resources about how to navigate pregnancy.

  • You might notice this story uses the term pregnant or birthing people. That’s because our newsroom uses language in reproductive health that includes people of different genders who can give birth.

  • To see a full explanation of our language choices, check out Dialogue, LAist’s style guide, and give us feedback.

Small groups wrote their concerns on giant sticky notes stuck to the walls of the Inglewood Chamber of Commerce. They included:

  • Fear of more deaths in their community 
  • Increased distance to receive care 
  • Biased care for Black and brown patients

“Why not reform a hospital right in the community, instead of running from one situation?” asked Nigha Robertson. His partner, April Valentine, died during childbirth at Centinela Hospital from a blood clot in January. Valentine’s family says her providers didn’t intervene when she complained of pain, numbness, and swelling in her legs for hours.

Her death also set off a string of protests and calls for an investigation of Centinela Hospital.

The California Department of Public Health later found the hospital risked patients’ lives by failing to take preventive measures to reduce the risk of blood clots, a preventable and well-known cause of death during pregnancy.

Black Californians die from pregnancy complications at a rate nearly four times higher than the general population. Research shows the factors that contribute to the disparities in Black maternal health include lack of access to high-quality care and health conditions stemming from the chronic stress caused by racism.

Transferring services

Prime Healthcare announced the maternity ward closure in July.

The hospital delivered fewer than two babies per day, on average, over the last several years said Prime Healthcare spokesperson Elizabeth Nikels in an email.

“Should the demand for this service increase, Prime would address that need as we strive to always support our patients and community,” Nikels said.

The hospital plans to expand capacity for higher demand types of care, including behavioral health, and transfer patients who need support during pregnancy and labor to St. Francis Medical Center, 10 miles away in Lynwood. The hospital will also continue to care for patients in labor through the emergency department, Nikels said.

The hospital said it notified people of the closure online, on social media, and in-person at the facility.

On Monday, Black Women for Wellness staff shared that the organization had surveyed nearly 600 nearby residents by phone and in person in the last two weeks found the majority did not previously know the hospital would end its obstetrics, labor, and delivery services.

Get involved

  • Black Women For Wellness continues to survey residents who live in a 9-mile radius of Centinela Hospital Medical Center to learn about the impact of the maternity ward closure and other barriers to health care.

  • Email the nonprofit directly at inf[email protected] with “Centinela” in the subject line to participate.

  • April Valentine’s friends and family are gathering at Centinela Hospital Medical Center, 555 E. Hardy St. Inglewood, on Wednesday, October 25 between 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. to remember people who died during pregnancy and childbirth.

“There is a general consensus that folks do not receive quality care at Centinela Hospital,” said maternal and infant health program coordinator Gabrielle Brown. “We’re looking to figure out why and find solutions to ensure that Black and brown bodies receive the quality of care that they truly deserve.”

In response to previous questions from LAist, a spokesperson for Centinela pointed to favorable evaluations of its care, including from U.S. News & World Report and from the Lown Institute for Social Responsibility. However, the nonprofit Cal Hospital Compare has rated Centinela below average for patient experience and poor for several metrics for maternal health, including breastfeeding and episiotomy rates.

How to take action after a bad pregnancy experience

After a violation

  • If you believe you’ve experienced a violation during pregnancy or labor, it can sometimes be challenging to know what course of action to take. In their resource on birth rights, Pregnancy Justice and Birth Rights Bar Association (BRBA) offer the following options as a place to start.

  • There’s no one right approach, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each of these strategies, and keep in mind that some come with risks or may not be realistic for everyone.

    • Talk about what happened. Find someone you trust to talk openly and freely about what happened. This process can help you understand what happened and decide what next steps you want to take.
    • Write your narrative. It can be helpful to have a record of what happened, from your point of view, written as close to the time of violation as possible. Start by writing freeform, and ask others you trust and who were there to clarify details.
    • Request your medical records: You have the right to see and get a copy of your medical records. These documents can help you understand what happened from the provider’s point of view and could be a key source of evidence. 
    • Give direct feedback. You can write a formal letter to whoever was involved in the violation, which might help the person make a change in how they practice.
    • File a formal complaint. Submit feedback to the official agency or agencies that oversee your providers. In California, the Medical Board licenses doctors and investigates complaints. The state’s Department of Public Health can investigate complaints against hospitals and other care facilities. 
    • Contact a state representative. Sharing your story with a representative can lead to an investigation by another agency or policy change. Find your California legislator. 
    • Contact the media. Media attention can help raise awareness and lead to others coming forward to help or share their stories.
    • File a lawsuit. Legal action can bring new details to light and may lead to settlement negotiations and monetary compensation. How to find and afford a lawyer.
    • Take direct action. Joining with others can bring attention to your issue, help build community, and can sometimes achieve outcomes that litigation cannot. 
    • Work the system, be creative. Understanding the system you’re in, you may have other ideas for how to get your story in front of key decision makers, through informal or artistic means.

Birth and postpartum resources

Birth and Postpartum Resources

  • These resources were recommended by California birth workers and families. Have a suggestion? Email [email protected].

  • For more on specific topics, see LAist’s pregnancy guides.

  • Doulas / Postpartum Support

  • Doulas provide expecting and new mothers or birthing people with educational, emotional, and physical support before, during, and after a baby is born. Postpartum doulas’ services can include cooking, help around the house, and various healing modalities. Pro tip: many postpartum doulas are available pro-bono while they are seeking certification.

    • What Do Doulas Do? – LAist’s guide to doulas, including a list of resources to find a doula in Southern California.
    • Birthworkers of Color Collective – A collective of birth workers of color providing trainings, workshops, and healing offerings for birthworkers, pregnant people, and their families.
    • DONA International – Doula certifying organization that includes a search tool to find prenatal and postpartum doulas.
  • Many support groups and parent and me classes exist throughout Southern California, and the best way to find one is to search online for groups in your area. You might also find these groups through your hospital or places where you find breastfeeding gear. It sometimes helps to look for activities you enjoy (eg. yoga, swimming, dancing) and see if they have “baby and me” classes.

    • Kindred Space – A hub for midwifery care, doula support, lactation consulting and support groups.
    • LOOM – Provides pregnancy, breastfeeding classes, and a doula directory.
    • Lucie’s List – Map of local parent groups.
    • Pump Station – Baby supply store that also offers parent and me classes.
    • Black Daddy Dialogues – Support group for dads raising Black children, every second Saturday of the month.
    • Love Dad – Home visits to fathers and their children throughout L.A. County  
    • The Expecting Fathers Group for Black Dads – Support group for Black soon-to-be fathers and provides education, support and navigation tools for the prenatal, labor and delivery, postpartum, and early parenting. 

Early childhood engagement producer Stefanie Ritoper created the lists of resources.


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