STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
UMASS MEMORIAL Medical Center officials intend to work with transit officials to help redirect patients to other area hospitals, especially UMass Memorial Medical Center’s campus in Worcester, if they follow through with a Leominster maternity ward’s closure.
The health care system on Tuesday submitted a 17-page letter with state regulators outlining steps it would take to mitigate the impact of shuttering the birthing center, a proposal that has drawn intense blowback from elected officials and organized labor groups.
Rebecca Rodman, senior counsel at Husch Blackwell LLP, wrote on UMass Memorial’s behalf that there are four other hospitals in the area — the center’s primary Worcester campus, Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Heywood Hospital in Gardner, and Emerson Hospital in Concord — that also offer inpatient maternity services and have “sufficient capacity” to absorb patients that today use the HealthAlliance-Clinton facility in Leominster.
To help with transportation needs, operators of the facility plan to contract with the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority to provide non-emergency medical transport to “birthing people identified with transportation barriers” and family transportation to the Worcester campus. That option would not cover emergency transportation for people giving birth nor for medical prenatal and postpartum appointments with community OB/GYN providers.
The Department of Public Health previously deemed the Leominster facility an “essential service,” a decision that required UMass Memorial to craft the plan filed Tuesday, according to the Worcester Business Journal.
Hospital officials told DPH in their latest correspondence that “financial support alone is not enough” to stave off closure of the site, pointing to persistent staffing challenges as a key factor.
“To maintain the current service — the Hospital would need to recruit numerous additional nurses, surgical technicians, OB/GYN physicians, and anesthesiologists,” Rodman wrote. “However, there are not enough births locally to support an increase in local OB/GYNs. New OB/GYNs are primarily taking jobs in a setting like the Medical Center in Worcester, where they can be active enough that each practitioner can assist with between 170-220 births per year to maintain skills and thus quality of care delivered.”
DPH has 10 days to review the plan, which prompted criticism from community groups that have opposed the proposed closure, and offer additional feedback.