UMass Memorial maternity unit closes despite protests

UMass Memorial Health closed the maternity unit at its Leominster, Mass., hospital at midnight Sept. 22 despite months of criticism and protests, The Boston Globe reported.

UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital in May proposed a plan to close the unit. The unit has averaged 1.3 births per day through most of fiscal year 2023 and experienced staffing shortages, the hospital noted in its closure plan. 

The closure proceeded despite objections from local and state officials, local pediatricians, the Worcester NAACP, and the March of Dimes, according to the report.   

Among the critics of the closure was Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella, who argued that "very little thought and planning went into this decision that effects [sic] the lives of the most vulnerable in our region."

On Sept. 21, the city of Leominster filed a lawsuit against the hospital, health system and state department of public health, alleging that the department never issued a written decision on whether UMass preserves access for patients in the region, according to the report. The health system told the news outlet it doesn't comment on pending litigation, but would not be able to staff the unit after Sept. 22. 

UMass Memorial told the news outlet that 39 caregivers are affected by the unit's closure. Of those, eight nurses have taken other positions within the hospital and two surgical techs have moved to other positions. Fourteen nurses and two surgical techs chose to receive severance, and 13 per diem staff were laid off 

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey could not intervene in the closure, but on Sept. 21 ordered two reviews to ensure that state residents, particularly those in rural and underserved communities, have access to healthcare, according to the report. Both assessments are to be completed by Nov. 15. 

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