CT denies hospital's request to disband the only rural labor and delivery unit in Sharon
Connecticut’s Office of Health Strategy (OHS) issued its proposed decision Monday to deny Nuvance Health’s request to close down Sharon Hospital’s labor and delivery ward. It is just one of several rural hospitals in Connecticut that has recently proposed closing their labor and delivery wards.
The OHS decision said that closure would result in “‘less diversity of health care providers and less patient choice in the geographic region.” The nearest maternity ward to Sharon Hospital is 25 miles away, or a roughly 40-minute drive.
Andrea Rynn, assistant vice president of public relations at Nuvance Health, wrote in a statement that Nuvance was “deeply disappointed” in the OHS decision.
“This hospital faces serious financial hardships and a very under-utilized maternity unit with declining births and considerable operational costs,” Rynn said.
The Connecticut Hospital Association issued a statement in opposition to the state’s decision to keep the ward open, saying rising healthcare costs and underfunded Medicaid have made it impossible for some hospitals to afford to keep their maternity wards open.
“Staffing shortages, decreases in births, and skyrocketing temporary worker costs are serious challenges,” the statement said. “Ignoring them doesn't make the challenges go away.”
Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, celebrated OHS’s decision at a press conference Wednesday.
“The hospital was trying to close labor and delivery for $3 million of revenue,” said State Comptroller Sean Scanlon. “And I think what the decision clearly rendered was that we did not think as a state that it was a good trade, for $3 million for profit, to jeopardize the health and safety of the women and children of this area.”
“Profits are not a problem for Nuvance,” said Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
Despite healthcare staffing shortages across the state, Nuvance said it would train its emergency room employees to prepare them to handle emergency births.
Lydia Kruge Moore, who runs a non-profit dedicated to stopping the ward’s closure, Save Sharon Hospital, did not have an emergency delivery, but her labor moved quickly enough that she would not have been able to get to the next-closest hospital, which is a forty-minute drive away.
“My contractions were 30 minutes apart, so my doctor said, ‘Just come in, we'll evaluate you,’” Moore said. “My water broke in the car on the way there. And then I delivered my daughter 40 minutes after I arrived at the hospital. [If I wasn’t going to Sharon Hospital] my husband would have had to deliver me on the side of the road.”
Kruge Moore also questioned whether any amount of extra training could equal the years of residency that labor and delivery practitioners go through.
Dr. Edward Kavle, a pediatrician who cares for babies in Sharon’s pediatric intensive care unit, told Connecticut Public last month that research shows that any commute over 25 minutes to get to a hospital is “incredibly dangerous for babies.”
Nuvance Health has until Sept. 18 to appeal OHS’s decision.