BOSTON — Facing a deadline next week, state public health officials are working to finalize reports about statewide access to maternal health care, as well as access to essential services in northern Worcester County.
Public Health Commissioner Robbie Goldstein said Wednesday that the reports and policy recommendations are based on public feedback sought through recent listening sessions throughout the state, including in Athol, Fitchburg, Leominster, Brockton, and Springfield.
“DPH staff have been working diligently to be responsive to this request from the governor’s office, and we look forward to delivering these critical reports,” Goldstein told the Public Health Council Wednesday.
Healey ordered the reviews in September following the controversial closure of a maternity ward in Leominster, but her administration later faced sharp scrutiny over its commitment to addressing the maternal health crisis and engaging with the public.
“Our administration is deeply concerned about the Leominster closure and health care access generally across northern Worcester County. We are committed to ensuring that all Mass. residents have access to high-quality health care, including safe and equitable maternal care,” said Healey in a statement released on Sept. 22. “That’s why I’m ordering a review … of essential health services in the Northern Worcester County area following the closure of the UMass Memorial Leominster maternity unit.”
For the maternal health review, Healey asked officials to focus on health equity and outcomes and to consider expanding the workforce, such as through doulas and nurse midwives, Goldstein said.
In a press release, the DPH said that their goal was to listen and learn from people in regions throughout the state and to “develop strategies to optimize the experiences and outcomes” for anyone affected by the closure of maternal wards and other health care facilities over recent years.
Goldstein made no mention Wednesday of the criticism lodged against the Healey administration by the Massachusetts Nurses Association over the “hastily arranged” listening sessions that the union said lacked public outreach and sufficient notice.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Administration has provided such short notice to participants regarding the Maternal Health Listening Sessions. This is not a process designed to gather substantive feedback,” Katie Murphy, president of the MNA, said last month. “This is a vitally important issue and should get the time and attention it deserves – not this hastily put together process with no advance notice.”
The Northern Worcester County listening sessions took place Oct. 24, 25 and 26 in Athol, Fitchburg and Leominster, respectively.
Both DPH reports, one for the whole state and another just for North Worcester County, are due next Wednesday, Nov. 15, Goldstein said.
Brendan Lewis contributed to this article.