The board of directors for Hutcheson Medical Center announced Wednesday evening that the hospital will suspend its labor and delivery services as of Dec. 31. Officials cited the suspension of services "as part of a larger strategic plan to refocus the hospital’s resources on community medical and surgical services that are financially viable and return the hospital to profitability."
Hutcheson’s Certificate of Need allows the hospital to resume services within a 12-month period.
“Suspending Hutcheson’s labor and delivery unit is a very difficult decision and one that we do not make lightly,” stated Corky Jewell, chairman of the board for Hutcheson Medical Center. “But for the hospital to operate independently, the board and executive management must evaluate service lines which are not financially viable as part of a broader strategic plan to ensure Hutcheson’s sustained profitability.”
Mr. Jewell added that gynecological surgeries and inpatient pediatric medical care, two services previously combined with labor and delivery as Hutcheson’s Women’s Center, will remain part of the hospital’s services.
Hospital officials stated that the labor and delivery service loses approximately $2 million annually, and the hospital has seen a steady decrease in births over the past 12 years as local birthing centers have become more competitive.
Farrell Hayes, interim CEO and CFO/COO, said, “Suspending labor and delivery services allows Hutcheson to refocus our resources and attention to growing medical service lines including cardiology, pulmonology, gastroenterology, and orthopedics that are needed in the community, are financially viable, and will allow Hutcheson to remain fiscally strong and operate independently.”
Mr. Hayes stated that while the jobs of 37 employees will be impacted by the suspension of services, qualified employees will be offered comparable positions currently open in other parts of the hospital. “Employees who are not qualified for comparable jobs, or choose not to accept a comparable job, will be provided a severance package,” he said.
Noting there are four hospitals with labor and delivery service in the region, Mr. Hayes stated that "the community will not experience a gap in delivery and neonatal service. We are working with the physicians and other hospitals to provide seamless transfer of services for any patients who may be in the neonatal ICU or nursery on Dec. 31. We recommend all pregnant mothers who were planning to deliver at Hutcheson contact their physician for more information.”
Frequently Asked Questions
When will Hutcheson suspend Labor & Delivery services?
· Hutcheson will suspend its labor and delivery services no later than Dec. 31. We will continue to deliver babies up until that date and provide the same level of maternity and neonatal care, including in the Level 2 NICU, but no later than Dec. 31.
Why are you suspending Labor & Delivery? I thought it was making money.
· There is a public perception that Hutcheson’s Labor and Delivery service is profitable, however, the reality is that labor and delivery loses $2 million dollars annually, and the hospital has seen a steady decrease in births over the past 12 years as local birthing centers have become more competitive. In fact, over 60% of all the babies born to Walker, Catoosa, and Dade county residents are delivered at Chattanooga-area hospitals. Certainly it is a very difficult decision to suspend a labor and delivery unit for any hospital, and one that is not made lightly. However, suspending Labor and Delivery services allows Hutcheson to focus on becoming a true community medical/surgical hospital and be financially viable.
Why a suspension of services? Does that mean you open the center back up?
· Hutcheson’s Certificate of Need allows the hospital to resume services within a twelve month period. Given that four area facilities also deliver babies, Hutcheson will only resume the service if it is deemed to be financially viable.
Will you still do gynecological surgeries?
· Yes. We will still perform gynecological surgeries, such as hysterectomies, both at the main hospital and at Hutcheson on the Parkway.
What will happen to pediatric patients? Will you still admit children?
· We will still admit pediatric patients and are working on a plan to relocate inpatient pediatric services to the main medical/surgical area.
What happens to the babies that are still in the hospital nursery/neonatal ICU (NICU)?
· Babies who are still in the nursery on Dec. 31 – for example, those in the NICU receiving a higher level of care - will be transferred to other facilities that provide the same level of care, such as Erlanger East and Parkridge East. The physicians involved with providing care at Hutcheson will work with the mothers to determine the best facility to which to transfer the infant. Given the shorter length of stay for infants and our current labor and delivery census, we do not expect this to impact more than one or two babies, and potentially none.
If you suspend Labor & Delivery, where are mothers supposed to go deliver?
· The OB doctors who deliver babies at Hutcheson also deliver babies at Erlanger, Erlanger East and Parkridge East, so there will be no gap in delivery services with the suspension of the labor and delivery services.
What about moms that are already scheduled to deliver there?
· Labor and delivery is scheduled to suspend services no later than Dec. 31. Until then, the hospital will continue to deliver babies and provide the same level of quality care as always.
What happens if a pregnant woman comes into the ED needing help?
· Consistent with federal law, Hutcheson’s Emergency Department will provide emergency care to stabilize a pregnant patient, followed by ambulance transfer to a qualified hospital facility with OB services if appropriate. Area EMS providers will be notified of Hutcheson’s labor and delivery suspension of services.
What will happen to the employees?
· Effectively 37employees will be affected by the suspension of services; however those employees who are qualified will be offered comparable positions currently open in other parts of the hospital. For those employees who are not qualified for comparable jobs or choose not to accept a comparable job, Hutcheson will provide a severance package.
What will happen to the Labor & Delivery area at the hospital?
· The portion of the hospital dedicated to labor and delivery services will be closed and no longer accessible to the public. The area will then be prepared for patient room expansion as medical/surgical volume increases unless the service is resumed within a 12-month period.
Why such an extreme cut before Christmas?
· Suspending service lines is never an easy decision, no matter what time of year. Given that Hutcheson is to operate independently, the Board and executive management determined that service lines which are not financially viable must be evaluated as part of a broader strategic plan to return the hospital to profitability as soon as possible.
So you are suspending Labor & Delivery… What’s next for the hospital?
· Certainly suspending Labor & Delivery is a difficult decision to make. However, suspending labor and delivery is part of a larger strategic plan which will allow Hutcheson to focus its resources and attention to growing medical service lines including cardiology, pulmonology, gastroenterology, and orthopedics that are needed in the community, are financially viable, and will allow Hutcheson to remain fiscally strong and operate independently.