Massachusetts sets hearing over hospital birth center closure

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has scheduled a public hearing next month regarding Beverly (Mass.) Hospital's plans to permanently close its freestanding birth center in September because of staffing shortages.

The hearing will occur at 6 p.m. Eastern time July 20 at the Vittori-Rocci Post in Beverly. 

Beverly Hospital, part of Cambridge, Mass.-based Beth Israel Lahey Health, announced May 11 that it is closing the birth center. 

Since then, the hospital has received pushback from the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which also represents midwives, as well as from community members. This includes the union filing a grievance over the plan, accusing the hospital of violating a contract by laying off the union midwives who work at the birth center. 

Tom Sands, president of Beverly Hospital, said it "is committed to providing the full range of women’s health services and recognizes that the birth center has provided care that is valued by members of our community. We understand that there is interest in pursuing alternatives to Beverly Hospital’s operation of a free-standing birth center and would always welcome conversations to explore how we can support healthcare needs in the community."  

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health must hold a public hearing on the proposed closure of an essential service at least 60 days before the proposed closure date, according to the department website

State officials will then "provide the hospital with a determination within 15 days as to whether the service provided by the hospital is necessary for preserving access and health status within the hospital's service area," the website says. Massachusetts cannot legally require Beverly Hospital to keep the birth center open.

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