Maternity ward at UMass Memorial Health in Leominster closes, despite pleas to stay open

LEOMINSTER, Mass. — After weeks of protests and outrage by state and local leaders, the inpatient maternity ward at the UMass Memorial Hospital in Leominster has closed its doors Saturday, citing staffing shortages.

”It’s dangerous. Lives will be lost,” says Miko Nakagawa, Leominster Hospital nurse.

An 11th-hour plea to Governor Maura Healey to use her executive powers to halt the closure was denied.

Instead, Healey’s office issued a press release saying she asked the Department of Public Health to do two studies: one on maternal health care in the state, and a second to assess essential hospital services in North Central Mass.

“Our administration is deeply concerned about the Leominster closure and health care access generally across northern Worcester County,” according to the statement from the Healey administration.

“We trusted her. We had faith in her that she was gonna protect these services for our community.“ says Rep. Natalie Higgins, 4th Worcester.

Eladia Romero, Co-chair, of Community United to Save OUR Birthing Center says, ”this experience has taught us that hospitals are more powerful than our own government… even with DPH agreeing with the community, there”s nothing they can do to stop it.“

Umass Memorial Health Care says they’ll provide curb-to-curb transportation for patients and will invest more than $600,000 for prenatal and postpartum care.

Members of the Community United to Save OUR Birthing Center coalition say it’s not enough and the decision puts an already underserved population at risk.

‘It took a minimum of 8 professionals to save my daughter and grandson’s life,” says Irene Hernandez, Co-chair, of Community United to Save OUR Birthing Center, " So think about that. What’s gonna happen to somebody else’s daughter who’s gonna come here with the same issue or preterm labor and they’re not ready for that.“

Boston 25 has learned the city of Leominster has filed a lawsuit calling into question the review process ending in the closure and the plan to provide access to maternal care to women.

In a memo to staff obtained by Boston 25, president and CEO Eric Dickson says, “Keeping a birthing center open without adequate obstetrical coverage is not in the best interest of our patients and is something we are not willing to do, regardless of the political pressure and damaging headlines.”

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