SHARON, Conn — A vigil took place Monday night in an effort to re-open Windham Hospital’s shuttered maternity ward. This, while in the opposite corner of the state another rural community is fighting the exact same battle at Sharon Hospital.
It’s a crisis of care for women and their babies across Connecticut and it means women are going to have to think long and hard about where they want to work and live.
If Sharon Hospital closes its maternity ward, the nearest birthing center will be 40 minutes away and that doesn’t include the time it takes for an ambulance to get to you. “We will have to intervene,” remarked State Sen. Saud Anwar, who is also a hospital physician.
He said the state will have to take a hard look at what can be done to protect maternal health in Connecticut. “This is truly life-threatening for children and women.”
Sharon Hospital is owned by Nuvance Health. They told FOX61 their decision to shut down labor and delivery was a financial one and that the hospital has, “faced financial challenges over the past decade, which were only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic…” They went on to say the birthing center, “…has seen less than one birth per day on average over the past 10 years, often going several days at a time without a delivery.”
Howard Mortman, M.D., has been delivering babies at Sharon Hospital for the last 20 years. “It would be catastrophic,” said Dr. Mortman. “It would be dangerous and it would change this area into what is now called a healthcare desert.”
Doctor Mortman told FOX61 he’s speaking out against his employer to save his community. “I think the primary goal for a lot of these companies is money. It’s not people, it's not safety, it’s not patients, it's not caring, it’s not love. It’s about money.”
The Save Sharon Hospital movement has been the subject of community rallies backed by state and federal politicians. The leader of their movement is a mom who had her two kids at Sharon Hospital. “For me personally I’m an hour from Danbury and I’m 45 minutes from Charlotte Hungerford and to me that is not a safe amount of time for me to travel to another hospital if I were to have another baby,” remarked Lydia Moore, the President of the Save Sharon Hospital non-profit.
Across Connecticut, four hospitals have either recently shuttered or are in the process of closing their labor and delivery units. Right now, Hartford Healthcare and Yale New Haven Health own more than half of the hospitals in Connecticut. “These healthcare centers at times make a strategic decision to shut down smaller hospitals or make them into emergency rooms and remove or reduce the services. While it may be financially good for them it’s not good for the communities where these hospitals are,” said State Sen. Anwar.
20 years ago, there were over 30 independent hospitals in CT. Now there are only four.
State legislators tell me another problem is recruiting enough specialty care doctors to want to work in Connecticut. State Sen. Anwar said, “They are leaving for other states where they can have better quality of life and their homes would be protected.” Anwar noted that the out of pocket cost of malpractice insurance keeps increasing.
A recent study found that across the country, 54% of rural communities had no access to labor and delivery services.
As for Sharon Hospital, a public hearing is set for Dec. 6th in front of the state Office of Health Strategy. “They haven’t sat down at the table and tried to figure out how to make it work. The only thing that’s been tried is to close it down,” said Doctor Mortman.
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