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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Springfield Hospital Board Votes To Close Birthing Center

A sign that says Welcome to the Childbirth Center and the Springfield Hospital logo, next to a black and white photo of an adult hand making a heart around baby feet.
Howard Weiss-Tisman
About 40 people attended a board meeting last week to support the childbirth center, but the board voted Tuesday to close the unit.

The Springfield Hospital board of trustees voted Tuesday to close the hospital's child-birthing unit, as it tries to shave $6.5 million off this year’s budget.

“This was a very difficult decision with valid points on both sides of the question,” Springfield Hospital interim CEO Mike Halstead said in a prepared written statement. “No one wants to see the elimination of childbirth services at Springfield Hospital.”

Springfield Hospital announced late last year that it had lost about $14 million, and the state issued an emergency$800,000 loan in January to bail them out.

The number of births at Springfield has been declining, and Halstead said in his statement that the hospital does not have the reserves on hand to operate a service that does not support itself.

“[A] sound business decision was necessary in the best interest of the financial future of this organization,” Halstead wrote. “Continuing to offer childbirth services is too large a financial strain on the Hospital at a time when it is not strong enough to support continued losses.”

The board met last week to consider closing the birthing center.About 40 people showed up to support the service and try to get the board to put off its decision.

Shannon Glidden is pregnant and has been meeting with staff at the hospital as she prepares for her birth. She attended last week's meeting and, after hearing about the board's recent decision, she said she was disappointed the board could not keep the unit open.

“I kind of was attached to the idea of all of my kids being born in the same hospital," Glidden said. "And it’s kind of sad that they won’t be able to be."

In a press release announcing the center's closure, Springfield Hospital Board Chairman Jim Rumrill said it wasn't an easy decision-making process: “The Board review process and vote was painstaking and thorough, with a great deal of personal consideration required on the part of our Board members," he stated. "This was a very tough decision."

The hospital did not provide a timeline for eliminating its childbirth service, but it said it will help families find other services in the area.

In his statement about the center's closure, Halstead did look to the hospital's future: “As painful as this decision is, it will help Springfield Hospital continue to provide greatly-needed access to other healthcare services for many years to come," he wrote.

Springfield Hospital's decision this week follows a similar move last year by Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon, New Hampshire, to close its obstetrics unit after merging with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

A University of Minnesota study found that 9 percent of rural counties across the country lost hospital-based obstetrics services between 2004 and 2014.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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