Friday, April 2, 2010

Lexington, Bedford Hospitals Closing Baby Birthing Units

Bedford Memorial (above) Stonewall Jackson (below) closing birthing units.^

Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital in Lexington and Bedford Memorial Hospital will close their respective birthing centers because of declining use and physician participation. The decision to close the units was made by each of the hospitals’ boards of directors and was not a Carilion Corporate Decision, according to Carilion's Eric Earnhart.

Stonewall Jackson’s center will close April 30 and Bedford Memorial’s will close Oct. 1, following the retirement of one of its physicians.

“We held on as long as we could,” said CSJH President Thomas McNamara of Stonewall Jackson. “We are the last Critical Access hospital in the state to offer OB services, but we simply don’t have enough patients and physician participation to continue.”

In 2009, 43 percent of pregnant women living in Lexington and Rockbridge County chose to have their babies at other hospitals in the region. The number of babies born at CSJH declined from an average of 22 per month in 2009 to 16 per month in 2010.

The declines are attributed to several factors. Patients increasingly choose to give birth in hospitals with advanced services, such as neonatal intensive care nurseries. Patients who work outside of the counties affected frequently choose OB GYNs closer to their workplace.

“It’s a difficult reality that many smaller hospitals have faced," said McNamara. "We don’t have enough births to support two OB GYNs, and you can’t safely operate an OB department with only one doctor available to be on call for emergencies. We realize this will be an inconvenience to some, and have tried to do what we can to minimize the impact. We will continue working with Carilion Clinic and our private practice colleagues to meet the needs of our community.”

Dr. Samir Ghobrial is retiring after 20 years at Bedford Memorial and his partner, Dr. Barbara McLaren, is taking a temporary leave of absence. Current patients of the practice will be able to deliver their babies at BMH between now and October 1. The practice will be closed to new patients effective April 1.

BMH President Patti Jurkus said, “We no longer have enough patients to support the ongoing operation of the Birthing Unit.” In 2009, 73 percent of pregnant women living in Bedford and Bedford County chose to have their babies at other hospitals in the region. The declining trend continues today, with the hospital averaging fewer than 12 births per month.

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