Hospital schedules meeting on controversial closing-Philadelphia News

PHILADELPHIA, PA.; September 3, 2008 The meeting comes on the heels of the hospital's announcement Wednesday, that it will shut down its obstetrics program.

More than a dozen maternity units have closed in and around Philadelphia over the past decade.

Cathy Birkmire, of Roxborough said,"I am so sorry to hear that it will close. I had my son there, 17 years ago, in 1971, at this hospital."

Former patients and maternity nurses expressed sadness & shock at today's news that Chestnut Hill Hospital cannot afford to keep its maternity unit open.

Diane Lomas, the Director of Newborn Services at the hospital, says emotions are running high among workers. "There were nurses in the unit who had served there 40 years."

Bette Begleiter, the director of the Maternity Care Coalition, says, "It's crushing news to Northwest Philadelphia, and it's crushing news to Philadelphia and this region."

Chestnut Hill will be the 15th hospital in the region to close its maternity unit in the last 11 years.

Both Jeanes Hospital and Frankford Hospital's Torresdale division closed their obstectric departments last year, leaving no facility in NE Phila. Where women may go for pre-natal & obstetric care.

When the obstetrics unit at Chestnut Hill closes on Nov. 4th, there will be no maternity program in NW Phila. And there is no place to deliver a baby in South Philadelphia. Albert Einstein Medical Center, nearly 5 miles away, is the next closest maternity unit for women living in the northwestern section of the city.

Begleiter adds, "We are really concerned at the Maternity Care Coalition really won't have a place to go. The other hospitals are really very taxed already."

1,100 babies were delivered at Chestnut Hill last year, 5 per cent of the total born in the city of Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has been working with the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council to keep tabs on obstetrical services. It has created a task force which conducts daily tracking of the number of women in ob-gyn units around the city. The task force is also studying whether reimbursements for obstetrical services are adequate, and it is keeping tabs on medical liability insurance climate.

Michelle Vicks of Elkins Park, has a 4-yr-old son born at Chestnut Hill; she says the news is devastating. She told Action News. "I think it will be very disheartening for parents-to-be, especially the young ones."

That includes new mothers like Jamillah Gordon, of Mt. Airy, who is 5 months pregnant with her first child. She learned about the closing at her pre-natal appointment at Chestnut Hill, earlier today:

"It was really stressful, because I don't know what I'm going to do," she told us. "It's kinda like they left me high and dry."

Hospital CEO, Brooks Turkel says the problem with obstetrics in a urban environment is the cost for services is exceptionally high...and utilization is very low.. So the reimbursement for the hospital is low. He told us, "Certainly it's abount finances, but in order to provide services the community wants, we have to generate more cash in than cash out. Other programs don't have the ability to support this program to that extent."

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