LEOMINSTER — The maternity ward at Leominster Hospital is facing closure in the fall by the UMass Memorial Health system that owns it, causing condemnation from the entire North Central Massachusetts legislative delegation and a planned protest rally on Tuesday.
UMass Memorial Health Alliance – Clinton Hospital President Steve Roach blamed “industry-wide workforce shortages” and “a declining birth rate” in the region for shuttering the popular birthing center.
The area’s legislative delegation released a joint statement calling the closure an “unjustified decision” which is “completely unacceptable and cannot stand.” The statement referenced high maternal mortality and that losing the unit “jeopardizes the health and safety of mothers and their newborns in our community.”
Patients in labor will be forced to travel much further to give birth in Worcester, Gardner, or Concord, with some inevitably forced to deliver in the Leominster, Fitchburg, or Clinton emergency rooms or on the side of the road trying to make it to a still open maternity unit.
UMass Memorial Health has notified the state Department of Public Health that it plans to close the labor and delivery unit on Sept. 22, but regulators must first approve the plan.
The protest rally will take place on Tuesday, May 30 at 6 p.m. at the corner of Nelson and North Main streets in Leominster, near the hospital. Local, state, and federal elected officials will be in attendance as well as members of the public.
The legislators said the impending closure shows an “unacceptable pattern” of “gutting healthcare services in North Central—and two Gateway Cities—of the critical healthcare services we need most,” noting the previous loss of services such as the mental health and urgent care center at Burbank Hospital in Fitchburg, cardiac and pulmonary rehab and inpatient pediatric unit in Leominster, and endoscopy and ambulatory services in Clinton.
“Enough is enough,” said state Sen. John Cronin and state Reps. Natalie Higgins, Meg Kilcoyne, Mike Kushmerek, Kimberly Ferguson, Margaret Scarsdale and Jonathan Zlotnik.
“This was an especially difficult decision for our health system, as our compassionate caregivers have helped thousands of parents and families navigate the birthing journey and welcome new loved ones into their lives for so many decades,” Roach said in a statement released to the press.
However, the legislative delegation said “no other alternative” will be acceptable to the delegation other than maintaining maternal healthcare services at Leominster Hospital.
It has not been announced what changes this will bring to Montachusett Women’s Health, the obstetrics and gynecology office on the grounds of Leominster Hospital whose doctors and midwives deliver the babies.