Leominster

Deadline looms as Mass. hospital moves to close maternity ward

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UMass Memorial Hospital in Leominster is required to meet one more deadline on Tuesday as it moves ahead in its controversial plan to discontinue its labor and delivery services.

The hospital is preparing to close its maternity ward on September 22 despite the Massachusetts Department of Public Health finding that maternity services are necessary to expectant mothers in northern Worcester County.

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State public health officials have given hospital management until Tuesday to submit a plan to ensure access to maternity in-patient services for pregnant women who live in the area. According to the state, the plan needs to address access to transportation to other hospitals while mitigating poor outcomes because of extended transit times, examine ambulant accessibility, the limitations of transferring a patient during labor, and assess how neighboring emergency departments will handle the influx of prenatal patients.

The plan must also include how the hospital will ensure sufficient staffing remains available until the maternity ward closes, and maintain clinical space in Leominster after the closure for patients to receive prenatal and postpartum care. It must also address concerns over patients’ specific cultural and linguistic needs, as well as ensuring there’s not a disproportionate effect on marginalized communities.

Many community members have rallied against closure of the hospital's maternity ward. The state's public health department has requested alternatives to its closure.

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