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September 21, 2023

Advocates, lawmakers make hard push to prevent planned Saturday closure of Leominster maternity ward

PHOTO | Courtesy Google Maps UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital in Leominster

Advocates working to prevent UMass Memorial Health from closing its birthing unit at HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital in Leominster are doubling down their efforts in the last days before the planned closure, attempting to persuade Gov. Maura Healey to issue a stay to keep it open.

UMass Memorial, which is headquartered in Worcester, is set to close the ward on Saturday after months of community pushback and intervention from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

The advocate group, Community United to Save Our Birthing Center, is holding a candlelight vigil outside of the hospital Thursday evening. The group is made up of community organizers, local legislators, and workers.The Massachusetts Nurses Association, a Canton-based labor union, has been outspoken against the announced closure. According to a Thursday statement from the advocate group, members have been placing calls with Healey’s office with increasing frequency in an effort to have her intervene.

The Healey Administration on Wednesday issued a statement saying it was aware of the heightened concerns.

“Our administration is committed to protecting access to high quality maternal health care for all Massachusetts communities. We are aware of the concerns raised by the community and local officials about the impending closure of the UMass Memorial Leominster campus and are reviewing the situation,” read the statement.

The coalition alleges that the closure will negatively impact access to healthcare for local patients. UMass Memorial asserts its updated plan for continuance of care is adequate.

In the continued effort to prevent the maternity ward closure, Leominster’s mayor sent a letter Monday to UMass Memorial Health asserting the system should not close the hospital amid destructive flooding across the city from storms.

Leomonster is currently under a local and state declaration of emergency and is lobbying to receive federal disaster designation, according to the Monday letter from Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella to Dr. Eric Dickson, president and CEO of UMass Memorial.

One of the city’s ambulances was destroyed in the flood, according to the letter. In it, Mazzarella wrote “All city departments are working 24/7 to address the needs of the people of Leominster…I expect that you won’t close the maternity ward during this time.”

UMass Memorial intends to proceed with its plan to close.

“We understand concerns expressed about the timing of the closure of HealthAlliance-Clinton’s inpatient maternity unit in relation to the ongoing challenges facing the community. In adherence with the DPH’s regulatory review process for the closure of essential services, we will be closing the unit as planned on September 23. DPH is aware of this and will shift its focus to monitoring and enforcement of our plan,” read a Monday statement from the healthcare system.

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