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Testimony on the Closure of the Inpatient Maternity Unit


DPH Public Hearing July 24, 2023

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Like many of our health system peers, we are experiencing unprecedented workforce shortages after the pandemic. Because maternity care is highly specialized, it has been even more challenging to maintain staffing of our inpatient maternity services at HealthAlliance-Clinton in Leominster. This includes not only nurses but also OB/GYNs and other clinical staff.

This, along with the declining number of births at the hospital, severely impacts the sustainability of this inpatient service – despite significant resources invested over the last five years in our sincere efforts to maintain the unit. For example, we have made investments in recruiting, upgrading the physical facility, purchasing state of the art equipment, training and expanding patient offerings. 

After much consideration, we made the difficult decision to propose closing these inpatient maternity services. As painful as that was, and still is, we believe it is the right thing to do in order to best provide services to all our patients. 

In the weeks since we announced this plan, we have heard many say this proposal was financially motivated. It is not. We want to be unequivocally clear that this was a clinical decision based on our persistent struggles to appropriately staff the unit. Instead, many of the losses incurred at HealthAlliance-Clinton will likely be assumed by UMass Memorial Medical Center – both hospitals being part of the UMass Memorial Health system.

We remain committed to ensuring that our patients have access to the high-quality health care services they expect and deserve. Our teams are in regular communication with other community organizations and providers in the region to make this transition as seamless as possible for patients. And we are making every effort to work with our impacted caregivers to find other positions within the UMass Memorial Health system.

We intend for patients planning to deliver at HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital to do so through September 23. After the proposed closure, patients may receive maternity inpatient care at UMass Memorial Medical Center or can choose one of the other high-quality hospitals providing obstetrics within 30 minutes of Health-Alliance Clinton.

Patients impacted by this closure can continue to receive their prenatal, postpartum, and pediatric care in the community. Additionally, HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital’s Emergency Department in Leominster will continue to care for emergency labor and delivery cases when they arise and we will continue to ensure staff are prepared to provide emergency obstetric services. 

Meanwhile, continued investment in the North Central community remains imperative. We have invested in a new Emergency Department, a new multidisciplinary clinic last year to better serve patients with chronic diseases, a new extended care unit for patients, and a significant investment in a linear accelerator to provide targeted radiation therapy to our cancer patients in the North Central community.

We also are assessing community need to inform an investment strategy that ensures health equity is prioritized throughout this transition of services and beyond. This will shape a significant investment in women’s health through improving access and enhancing resources that support prenatal- and postpartum care for mothers, birthing people, and infants.

We are tailoring this assessment to reduce disparities and focus on those in our community who are most at risk of negative health outcomes. In doing so, we hope to address needs that may include improving transportation options, reducing barriers to care, and enhancing community-based resources that provide culturally and linguistically appropriate and responsive whole-person care.

Our top priority is always the health of our patients and communities. It’s why we sometimes must make tough decisions like this to continue to best serve those who look to us for care. We promise to be transparent throughout this process by remaining engaged with our valued community members, and we will continue to focus on providing exceptional care now and well into the future. 

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