2013-07-18 / Front Page

Birthing Services to be Eliminated at Towanda

Memorial Hospital Issues Letters to Maternity patients
-By Rick Hiduk-

Rumors that Memorial Hospital in Towanda would be closing its maternity ward in the fall have turned out to be true, according to a letter issued to maternity patients by Community Health Associates LLC on July 16.

The form letter signed by hospital president and CEO Gary Baker makes it clear that birthing services will no longer be provided at the facility as of Tuesday, Oct. 1.

“We understand that this decision to close the Maternity Center affects many people’s lives. We deeply appreciate the thousands of families, like you, who have utilized this community hospital over the past half-century for maternity services. We applaud our Maternity Center staff for the exceptional nursing care they provide. We anticipate providing complete obstetrics care and delivering babies right up to Sept. 30, 2013.”

Baker explains that the decision was made by the hospital’s Board of Trustees on the recommendation of hospital administrators, who had determined that “there are insufficient numbers of births at the hospital to continue supporting the service.”

Memorial Hospital is not alone. A rudimentary online search shows that numerous hospitals across the country have announced the closing of their respective maternity wards during the past two years. Most cite a decline in the birth rate, and some blame the new national health care program.

Baker references the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania that attributes the discontinuance of obstetrics services on fewer babies being born and a “difficulty in recruiting physicians.”

The letter from Memorial Hospital does not offer suggestions as to where else expecting families might go for birthing services but indicates a long-term commitment to helping mothers-to-be make appropriate decisions.

“We are in the process of developing plans to ensure the continuation of local prenatal services in our community. Your doctor will most certainly work with you for a smooth transition in the provision of your health care, now and into the future.”

Tyler Memorial Hospital in Tunkhannock discontinued birthing services in October 2008, leaving expectant families to choose between facilities in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. The maternity ward at the former Montrose General Hospital closed in the mid 1990s.

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