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United Medical Center to permanently close obstetrics ward

Washington, D.C.-based United Medical Center will not reopen its maternity unit, which was temporarily closed in August after district health officials uncovered deficiencies in the department's screening, clinical assessment and delivery protocols, according to the Washington Business Journal.

UMC Board Chairwoman LaRuby May said the decision to permanently close the department occurred during the board's closed-session meeting Wednesday. Officials cited the financial cost UMC would incur by reopening the department as a significant reason for the board's decision. Ms. May said costs could range between $19 million and $26 million, and the hospital would need to request funds from the city to reopen the unit, according to the report.

Ms. May also said the hospital's low delivery volume made it difficult to retain talent and justify the expenses necessary to improve the patient safety issues district healthcare officials noted during their review of the department earlier this year.

UMC conducted 365 deliveries in 2016, according to the report. By comparison, MedStar Washington Hospital Center, George Washington University Hospital and Howard University Hospital — all in Washington, D.C. — respectively conducted 3,564, 3,127 and 968 deliveries during the same year.

During Wednesday's meeting, D.C. Health Care Finance Director and UMC Board Member Wayne Turnage said the hospital has quickly depleted its cash reserves and maintains roughly 21 days' worth of cash on hand, the report states.

Board members also voted during the meeting to request a $17.1 million subsidy from the city to compensate for the hospital's depleting cash reserves. However, the vote to close the maternity ward took place after board members agreed to request the subsidy, meaning they would need to request additional funds from the city to finance the obstetric ward's reopening, according to the Washington Business Journal.

The decision to close the obstetrics ward comes one month after the hospital opted to sever ties with its current operator, Veritas, after their contract expired Nov. 30.

Editor's note: Becker's Hospital Review reached out to United Medical Center for comment and will update the report as more information becomes available.

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