LEOMINSTER - Outside the Leominster hospital where so many have spent their careers, maternity nurses rallied Tuesday - demanding safety and compassion for the expectant mothers and unborn babies in their region.
"It's the patients that matter, not us. We don't matter. We're just replaceable nurses. These patients matter. They need us. We want to be here for them," said Kathy Coder, a labor and delivery nurse at the hospital for the past 36 years.
Explaining the recent decision to soon close HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital's birthing center, president Steve Roach wrote:
"In recent years, industry-wide workforce shortages have exacerbated the challenges of fully staffing our maternity inpatient unit consistently at HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital, despite our persistent attempts to recruit and retain clinicians in this region. This, along with the steadily declining number of births in North Central Massachusetts, has a significant impact on our unit's future capacity to provide labor and delivery care to our patients."
Patients and veteran nurses fear that stripping these services could have a devastating impact on families during a vulnerable time - often when every minute matters.
"The next closest (place to deliver) for me would be an hour, an hour and 15 minutes. That's unacceptable. What if I go into labor before then? What if I abrupt? That's not OK. What if something happens and I have to pull off to the side of the road?" said patient Laura Pepperell.
"We'll have people come in, we put them on the monitor, the baby's heart rate is in the 50s, 60s and we're in the operating room within six minutes. We've saved a lot of lives - babies' lives, mothers' lives. They need us!" said Cathy Seraphina, who has worked there as a labor and delivery nurse for 37 years.
The hospital president said they intend to make investments in other community organizations to maintain access to women's health services in the region.
While they have already submitted notice to the Department of Public Health, state lawmakers and nurse leaders demand a conversation and openness to some solutions.
"Come to the table with state local and federal partners and tell us what you need to keep this labor and delivery unit open," said state senator John Cronin.
The proposed closure date for the maternity unit is September 23 this year.
for more features.