Bittersweet ending for much-loved Auburn birthing center

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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More than 10,000 babies and 44 years after if first opened, Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital’s just-closed Family Birth Center was being remembered fondly by physicians, staff and even parents of babies born there. But the loss of the community only hospital facility for expectant mothers to give birth was still a deep one to many. Perhaps the emotions were running the deepest with Lila “Copie” Copeland, a registered nurse at Sutter Auburn Faith for 44 years, including more than two decades in the birthing center. On Thursday, just before midnight, Copeland and other birthing center workers saw out the facility’s last few minutes, then left the hospital in a hired limousine to tour the area and sip some champagne. Copeland, who lives in Colfax, was marking two endings – the birthing center’s and her nursing career. She decided to retire at 71 at the same time the birthing center closed. “I’m happy for myself but sad for the community and my co-workers,” Copeland said. “It’s bittersweet. I’ve met so many wonderful people in the community.” Copeland said she has seen mothers give birth and then their daughters return for another birth in later years. She started work at the hospital six months after it opened. “I’ve met so many wonderful people in the community,” Copeland said. Dr. Robert Weiss, one of the hospital’s founding doctors in 1966, said the end of the birthing room will leave a void in Auburn. The closure was prompted by a decline in the number of babies delivered at the hospital. Hospital officials say contributing factors included an aging population and the number of women already leaving the community for deliveries. Mothers will continue to receive prenatal care and follow-up care in Auburn, but deliver at Sutter Roseville Medical Center. “I’m disappointed, as I’m sure a lot of people are,” Weiss said. “If a lady’s in labor, often they just get here in time. Now if somebody is in labor in Auburn or Colfax or Foresthill, they will have to go the extra way.” Auburn’s Christina and Zack Schulz visited during a noon-hour tribute Friday to physicians and nursing staff. Their son Max was born at the hospital on July 3 last year. “It’s a sad day,” Christina Schulz said. “I was born here too. Our experience was wonderful. It’s sad for the community to lose this resource. I don’t want to drive down to Sutter Roseville.” Mitch Hanna, Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital chief executive officer, said that the birthing center was closing on a proud note, with high quality rankings and patient satisfaction in the 99th percentile. “It’s a sad day for the hospital community,” Hanna said. “And if the demographics change, the hope is to reopen again.”