Alice Hyde closes maternity center | News

MALONE — Following months of diverting expecting mothers to other facilities, University of Vermont Health Network, Alice Hyde Medical Center representatives announced the official closure of the Malone hospital’s Family Maternity Center this week.

That means Alice Hyde will no longer perform non-emergency births, a decision made in collaboration with the state Department of Health in light of a sharp decline in births over the last few years and with the aim of adopting a regional approach to obstetrical care.

Alice Hyde President Michelle LeBeau said the facility would focus on delivering outpatient and emergent care to expectant mothers, including pre- and post-natal care, gynecological care and surgical services, and women’s health screenings.

“Our priorities are to make this transition safe and seamless for expecting mothers, and to ensure they continue to have access to maternity services of the highest quality, in an environment of compassion and clinical excellence,” she said in a statement.

46% DECREASE IN BIRTHS

During a media availability Tuesday afternoon, LeBeau pointed to quality trends of people choosing to have children later in life, or choosing to have fewer children, along with shortages of obstetricians and nurses.

According to a press release, from Fiscal Year 2019 to Fiscal Year 2021, births at the Family Maternity Center dropped by more than 46% from 258 to 137. Some months saw fewer than 10 births.

“This decline in volume makes it difficult for our team to remain prepared for complex and/or difficult births, as well as complications that can arise during pregnancy,” said Alice Hyde Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lisa Mark said in a statement.

The release cited quality data for obstetrics/maternity programs which “show that patients in programs which perform fewer births per year generally experience more complications than those in larger programs, and the rate of complications rises as the number of births performed by a program falls .”

OB/GYN SHORTAGES

Dr. Ira Bernstein, UVM Medical Center’s chief of Women’s Services, said both rural and metropolitan hospitals are grappling with a shortage of obstetricians and gynecologists.

In 2019, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists projected a shortage of almost 9,000 providers by 2020, which is expected to balloon to 22,000 by 2050, the release said.

“Recruiting providers is no easy task, and finding providers interested in working in smaller communities where call is more frequent is an even bigger challenge,” Bernstein said.

“I’ve been in this community and connected to Alice Hyde for 35 years, and because of the demographics in our region, the challenges are going to get worse, not easier.”

DIVERSION SINCE OCTOBER

Alice Hyde effectively shuttered the Family Maternity Center and began diverting expecting mothers to other obstetrics programs on Oct. 4 due to staffing challenges.

Diversion was instituted after two traveling registered nurses left the center in the middle of their contracts, rendering the hospital unable to fully staff the birthing unit, the release said.

Print a statement, US Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) said the announcement was devastating to North Country families and repeated her opposition to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

“In the face of this loss of a critical component of care, supporting our health care workers and preventing staffing shortages that have been exculpated by harmful vaccine mandates could not be more important,” she said.

But Bernstein said in a statement that the volume of births was the deciding factor in closing the Family Maternity Center.

LeBeau affirmed issues that during the media availability, saying she and fellow hospital officials believe Alice Hyde would have moved away from non-emergent births even without the pandemic and related staffing.

NURSE NAVIGATOR

Mark said other local institutions like Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital have the capacity to handle more patients coming from Alice Hyde.

She estimated that 10 to 15 births occurred each month in the Malone area, and that those delivered for the most part have transitioned to the Plattsburgh facility.

A nurse navigator in Alice Hyde’s OB/GYN office helps moms choose where they’d like to deliver, whether that’s CVPH or non-network hospitals like Adirondack Medical Center and Canton-Potsdam, Mark added.

“But if they do choose a location like CVPH, we have a variety of things in place so that moms get to know the providers there that will be delivering them and the unit on which they will deliver.”

That nurse navigator position is set to remain in place even as the Family Maternity Center closes, the officials confirmed.

ON-CALL OB NURSE

Mark estimated that roughly 10 to 11 nurses worked in the Family Maternity Center, some of whom left Alice Hyde just prior to when diversion began while others stayed on at the hospital.

Alice Hyde Chief Nursing Officer Rebecca Shutts said no layoffs were planned. She noted that, while Alice Hyde would no longer plan to deliver births, the hospital would be prepared to deliver babies in situations should mothers come to the emergency room.

Asked if any of the center’s staff members were transferred to the Emergency Department due to their expertise with birthing, Shutts explained there is currently an on-call obstetrics nurse.

TRANSPORT CENTER

Shutts said both mom and baby would be transferred to another facility for the immediate post-recovery period during which they remain in the hospital for up to a few days.

The release said UVM Health Network’s Regional Transport Center works with more than a dozen organizations that provide ground and air-based medical travel 24/7 and offer levels of care that include basic and advanced life support, neonatal, and pediatric and neonatal intensive care.

“We are committed to continuing to work in partnership with Alice Hyde, CVPH, UVMMC, other North Country facilities and transport agencies across our region to connect moms and families with the care they need,” said Family Maternity Center Medical Officer Dr. Ryan Clouser said in a statement.

“We will also partner with these transport agencies to augment OB and perinatal training, to ensure we can support moms while in transit.”

Email Cara Chapman:

cchapman@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @PPR_carachapman

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