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August 9, 2023

UMass Memorial’s maternity ward in Leominster deemed essential service, defying closure plans

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

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has determined UMass Memorial Health’s maternity ward in Leominster is an essential service for the people of North Worcester County, complicating the health system’s plans to close the center.

The maternity ward at the UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital, Leominster Campus is “necessary for preserving access and health status within the Hospital’s service area,” according to a Monday letter from the DPH.

The analysis came after a July 24 public hearing during which community advocates and local lawmakers continued their push for the ward to remain open.

Following the DPH ruling, UMass Memorial will be required to prepare a plan to ensure continued access to maternity care services for residents of the hospital’s service area. UMass has 15 days to deliver their plan, according to DPH regulations. The plan must ensure access to transportation, including during labor, a protocol for how patients will be referred to other hospitals, and assurances of no continued cutbacks at the Leominster hospital.

The hospital planned the closure of the ward for Sept. 23. UMass Memorial must release its new plan publicly by Aug. 23, at which point DPH will determine if it adequately meets the requirements, which would allow for closure of the ward. 

"UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital is working with the Department of Public Health to detail our ongoing plans to maintain access to essential maternity inpatient services across North Central Massachusetts following the proposed closure of the labor and delivery unit at our Leominster campus. Throughout this process, we remain committed to thoughtfully and equitably addressing the needs of all birthing people in our service areas," a UMass Memorial Health spokesperson said in a statement.

“The Birthing Center at Leominster Hospital is imperative to protect the lives of the hundreds of thousands of residents in North Central Mass. Its closure would have a devastating impact on this community,” State Rep. Michael Kushmerek (D-Fitchburg) said in a Wednesday press release from the Community United to Save Our Birthing Center Coalition, a delegation formed to oppose the closure. “Our work remains committed to preserving the longevity of such an essential unit and ensuring that DPH understands the importance of this unit on the future of our region.”

UMass Memorial cited staffing challenges and a declining number of births as the reason for the closure.

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