‘It’s terrifying’: Dozens of protestors rallying to stop a maternity ward from closing in Leominster

LEOMINSTER, Mass. — UMass Memorial proposes to shut down its maternity ward at its Leominster campus by September 22nd, but this decision still needs regulatory approval.

Dozens of people protested the decision outside the HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital Tuesday.

“It’s distressful, it’s revolting, it’s terrifying, that these people could sit on a board and make a decision without communicating with our community because this is a community hospital, this is our hospital,” said Irene Hernandez.

If this maternity ward closes, the next closest one would be at least a half hour away in either Gardner or Worcester.

“We have patients come in and deliver within 2 minutes of being in the unit, we have a lot of patients come in and deliver on the way to the hospital here, so driving further is very concerning, and we’re all just petrified about what’s going to happen,” said Tara Corey, a labor and delivery nurse at the Leominster hospital.

Hernandez says her daughter had a placenta abruption while in labor a few years ago and was rushed to this hospital.

“They had to do emergency surgery on her and she needed like 3 pints of blood, but can you imagine if they had to transfer her or transport her 45 minutes away?” said Hernandez.

The president of the hospital says this has been a difficult decision.

“In recent years, industry-wide workforce shortages have exacerbated the challenges of fully staffing our maternity inpatient unit consistently at HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital, despite our persistent attempts to recruit and retain clinicians in this region,” said Steve Roach, President of UMass Memorial Health Alliance-Clinton Hospital in a statement. “This, along with the steadily declining number of births in North Central Massachusetts, has a significant impact on our unit’s future capacity to provide labor and delivery care to our patients.”

“It’s the patients, you know, and the moms and the babies of the community that are going to suffer that we don’t want,” said Amy Gagnon, a nurse at the hospital.

Nurses are worried about moms delivering in the ER instead of without postpartum nurses to help take care of the babies.

Local and state leaders say with a population of 100,000 people in Leominster and Fitchburg, these services need to stay here.

“Now more than ever we need access to maternal healthcare and a gateway city with a twin sister city that feeds into this hospital, we need to keep our labor and delivery unit and we’re hoping that we can use the next 120 days to really appeal to the hospital administration to keep the labor and delivery unit open,” said Natalie Higgins, state representative for Leominster.

Higgins says the Department of Public Health could schedule essential services hearing in early July, and that’s when this community could still push to keep this open.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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