For 25 years, McLaren St. Luke’s has been a destination for moms-to-be, with a professional, close-to-home Family Birthing Center.
Last week, hospital staff announced a decision to discontinue providing obstetrics and birthing services. The compounding challenges of COVID-19, the national staff shortage and the exclusion of Paramount insurance all factored into that decision. Both the in-hospital center and the McLaren St. Luke’s obstetrics physician offices in Holland and Perrysburg will be closed between the end of August and the end of September.
“The decision to discontinue delivering babies at our hospital has been particularly difficult and emotional,” said Jennifer Montgomery, McLaren St. Luke’s president and CEO. “We made every effort to avoid eliminating the program, but the loss of a large, managed-care health plan and other economic conditions have significantly reduced the number of patients who choose McLaren St. Luke’s for birthing services.”
Though birth rates in Lucas County have been slowly trending downward for several years, McLaren St. Luke’s has experienced a 20-percent drop in births so far this year, and a 40-percent decline in March.
Since opening the unit on April 15, 1997, the hospital has facilitated the delivery of more than 12,000 babies. In fiscal year 2020 (from October 1 to September 30), 526 babies were delivered. In FY 2021, that dropped to 485. In the first half of this fiscal year, just 241 moms have selected McClaren St. Luke’s.
“It is simply not financially feasible to continue operating our birthing unit with such steeply declining volume. Fortunately, there are many options for expectant women to deliver locally. A number of local hospitals have larger obstetrics programs, NICU and special care nurseries, as well as pediatrics services that make them the choice of many families in the area,” Montgomery said.
Since becoming out of network with Paramount – ProMedica’s insurance plan – on January 1, overall patient visits have decreased by 20 to 30 percent. In March, as the full impacts of that exclusion were being felt, recovery efforts were under way to reassign employees to areas with higher volume and eliminate some unfilled positions. Job eliminations have been in both clinical and non-clinical areas, including some leadership positions.
Last week, 90 people were notified that their positions have been eliminated or will be over the next 90 days. The majority are in the OB/GYN service line. Like positions have been offered to staff working in the Family Birthing Center and at the Rivercrest and Premier Women’s Health offices. OB/GYN employees who stay in their current roles until the transition is complete will be eligible for a retention bonus.
At the same time, McLaren St. Luke’s continues to hire for many positions of high demand, including RNs, nursing assistants, surgical technicians, radiological technicians, lab technicians and medical assistants.
The goal is to focus resources on the services that are in the greatest demand from patients, including cardiology and cardiovascular care, neurology and orthopedics.
“McLaren St. Luke’s remains a hospital of choice for adults and seniors in Northwest Ohio,” said Dr. Stephen Bazeley, chief medical officer. “They know and trust us for high-quality services like cardiovascular care and open-heart surgery, spine and neurological care, robotic surgery and orthopedic services. We are committed to delivering compassionate, high-quality care and continuing to be a partner to the communities we serve.”
Obstetrics patients have been notified of the change by mail, but those with questions should contact their primary OB/GYN providers. McLaren St. Luke’s will continue to provide mammography and other radiology services.
Patients experiencing a medical emergency – obstetrics-related or otherwise – should not hesitate to visit the McLaren St. Luke’s emergency room after the birthing center closure. The hospital has an experienced emergency department team trained to provide emergency medical care and, if needed, will make arrangements for a transfer.
For more information about McLaren St. Luke’s, go to mclaren.org/stlukes.