MALONE — The University of Vermont Health Network announced Tuesday that it will no longer perform elective deliveries or obstetrical care at Alice Hyde Medical Center.
“This is a tough decision for our organization, and we know this is tough news for our community,” said Michelle LeBeau, president of UVM Health Network of Alice Hyde and Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, in a statement. communicated. “Our priorities are to make this transition safe and seamless for pregnant women and to ensure that they continue to have access to the highest quality maternity services, in an environment of compassion and clinical excellence. “
LeBeau said Alice Hyde will focus on providing ambulatory and emergent care to pregnant women and will continue to provide prenatal and postnatal care, gynecological care and surgical services, as well as women’s health services such as screenings, well visits and routine care.
“Responding to the changing needs of our community is nothing new to Alice Hyde – or any health care organization – and it does not change our commitment to clinical excellence, delivering compassionate care or ensuring that services Essential health care products for women are available to our patients and communities, now and for generations to come,” said LeBeau.
At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Rebecca Shutts, head nurse at Alice Hyde, said no layoffs due to the closure of the hospital’s maternity ward – known as the Family Maternity Center – was not planned.
“In fact, we don’t anticipate any layoffs,” Shutts said. “We have been working with staff to find places where they can land safely.”
Lisa Mark, Alice Hyde’s chief medical officer, said 10 or 11 nurses worked at the FMC. Some chose to leave the organization altogether and others chose to go into different areas of the organization, she said.
“Today’s announcement is devastating for families in the North Country, who will now be forced to drive an extra hour to have their babies,” said Deputy Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, in a statement from hurry. “In the face of this loss of an essential element of care, supporting our healthcare workers and preventing staffing shortages that have been exacerbated by harmful vaccine mandates could not be more important. I will continue to advocate for our rural communities to have access to the health services they need.
According to Ira Bernstein, chief of women’s services at UVM Medical Center and chair of the department of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive services at UVM’s Larner College of Medicine, the deciding factor in closing the FMC was primarily the drastic decline the number of births at Alice Hyde since 2019.
“Like many rural hospitals, Alice Hyde has seen a significant drop in births in recent years,” Mark said in a statement. “This drop in volume makes it difficult for our team to remain prepared for complex and/or difficult deliveries, as well as complications that may arise during pregnancy.”
The decision to close the FMC came after a review of the program and was made in conjunction with the state Department of Health.
Alice Hyde said FMC births have dropped by more than 46%. In 2019, the FMC delivered 258 babies. In 2021, there were 137 births.
Although not a key factor in the closure, staff shortages were also acknowledged.
In October, Alice Hyde began diverting pregnant women from her birthing unit to other midwifery programs in the area. A deviation is a temporary status that is declared after hospitals have determined that they are unable to provide service according to their standards.
Alice Hyde declared diversion status after two traveling nurses quit the FMC team midway through their contracts, leaving the hospital unable to fully staff its birthing unit and perform scheduled hospital deliveries with the level of quality and safety to meet its internal standards, according to the hospital.
Although the FMC closed Oct. 4 due to pandemic-related staffing issues, LeBeau believes the FMC’s closure was a possibility due to declining births.
Bernstein said staffing challenges are being felt nationwide by midwifery programs similar to Alice Hyde’s, as birth rates plummet and rural and metropolitan hospitals grapple with shortages. obstetricians and gynecologists.
“Recruiting vendors is not an easy task, and finding vendors interested in working in smaller communities where calls are more frequent is an even bigger challenge,” Bernstein said. “I have been in this community and connected to Alice Hyde for 35 years, and due to the demographics of our area the challenges are going to get worse, not easier.”
For obstetrical care, Alice Hyde will adopt a regional approach in which patients will be transferred to another facility of their choice, continuing the diversion status indefinitely.
During the press conference, LeBeau said Alice Hyde is in partnership with Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, Canton-Potsdam Hospital and Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh.
Mark said other hospitals have the capacity to treat patients in northern Franklin County.
“We’ve had plans in place since we went on diversion in October to be ready for things like this.” said Mark. “We have set up an OB nurse navigator in the OB-GYN office here (at Alice Hyde Medical Center) who helps moms choose where they want to give birth. If they choose a place like CVPH, we have a variety of things in place so moms can get to know the providers who will be delivering to them and the unit they will be giving birth on.
OB Nurse Navigator is confirmed as a permanent position with Alice Hyde.
According to LeBeau, Alice Hyde has worked directly with pregnant women in the hospital’s care to share information and help facilitate the planning process for those whose childbirth care plans have been impacted since the diversion began. maternity patients to neighboring programs in October.
“Making this transition safe and seamless for pregnant women is at the top of everyone’s minds, and I am extremely grateful for the work our FMC team continues to do every day to support and care for our patients while we let’s move forward in this process,” says LeBeau. “Creating a strong regional program through collaboration with our UVM Health Network partners and working with our regional transportation center to provide patients with options when traveling to another facility to deliver will ensure that our community continues to have access to safe and reliable services. and high quality maternity services.
The UVM Health Network Regional Transportation Center works with more than a dozen organizations that provide ground and air medical travel 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
The RTC also offers different levels of care ranging from basic and advanced life support to pediatric and neonatal intensive care services.
“We are committed to continuing to work in partnership with Alice Hyde, CVPH, UVMMC, other North Country facilities and transportation agencies in our region, to connect moms and families to the care they need,” said Ryan Clouser, physician for the RTC. “We will also partner with these transport agencies to increase OB and perinatal training, to ensure we can support moms during transport.”
Mark said Alice Hyde will continue to provide emergency care to pregnant women through the hospital’s emergency department.
“Our emergency department team is trained and prepared to handle emergencies as they arise, and our FMC team members continue to be available to answer questions and provide patient support. having questions or concerns; and provide clinical support to our emergency team, in case of urgent or emergent deliveries,” said Mark.
Shutts said following an emergency delivery, the mother and baby will be transferred to another facility to remain in a hospital setting as needed.
“It’s really important for us to recognize the very good work of the staff,” said LeBeau. “These six months have not been easy for them. They’ve been fantastic, they’ve been professional, and they’ve been thoughtful and meaningful. They put patients at the center of the work they do to ensure that we provide the best care to the Malone community. It would be unfair to tell the story of this transition without highlighting these people because they really did a spectacular job.