Hospital suspends obstetrics services

By Times Staff

Monticello residents won’t be giving birth to their babies at New River Medical Center in the foreseeable future. The hospital announced during last Thursday’s regular board of directors meeting the decision to suspend obstetrical services, including deliveries, C-sections and nursery care effective May 25.

“Suspending obstetrical services was a very difficult decision,” Ervin Danielowski, New River Medical Center’s Board Chair, said in a hospital release this week. “The decision was not based on money or budgets, it was based on our commitment to deliver safe, quality care. At this time, we are simply unable to appropriately and safely staff this service because of the declining number of patients, and we were forced to take action.”

Joseph Mahoney, M.D., a board member since 2009 who has been with the Monticello Clinic since 2005, says the hospital was not forced into this latest action; rather, he says it is a choice.

“They won’t deal with independent physicians, they just try to hire (and work with their own doctors),” said Mahoney.

“They are closing down (obstetrics) and saying they don’t have a choice, that they’re in violation of policy. They have a choice. There are obstetricians in the community who want to work there. They want to come, but they have some questions. It’s not that (the hospital) has no choice.”

The hospital maintains that conditions made the move necessary.

“We have noticed a decline in our birth rate,” said Joni Pawelk, marketing director for the hospital. “And the decision by the local OB group to bring patients to other facilities is probably the main reason.”

The hospital says it is currently looking for OB/GYNs to practice in this community and care for patients, and New River Medical Center continues to be interested in working with the existing local OB/GYN group.

“Our goal is to provide obstetrical services here at New River Medical Center, and that is why we are actively recruiting new providers,” Danielowski said in the release. “This is an important service to our community and to me personally. My family has used this service through the years as my children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews have been born here. Our goal is to re-open a thriving women’s services department that will provide exceptional care, right here in our community.”

Mahoney says the he also has the best interests of the community in mind. That is why he ran for a board in 2009, believing his relationship with the hospital and the clinic would give him a unique chance to help improve the relationship between the two. But with it becoming more difficult for his “voice to be heard” and the relationship between the groups growing increasingly contentious, Mahoney said he has decided to step down from his positions on the hospital board and as Chairperson of the Quality Committee, and Chairperson of the newly created 501c3 board.

The hospital says it is recruiting OB/GYNs to practice in the community and care for patients, and New River Medical Center continues to be interested in working with the existing local OB/GYN group.

“It’s important for people to realize, New River Medical Center is here to serve the needs of the community,” Pawelk said.

The hospital says it will have systems and processes in place to ensure patients are well cared for in the event a mother in labor arrives at New River Medical Center’s Emergency Department. If it is medically safe to do so, the hospital says, the patient will be transferred to another obstetrical unit of her choice. If an emergency delivery is necessary, New River Medical Center will utilize neonatal resuscitation trained nurses, physicians and respiratory therapists to care for the newborn and then transfer both mom and baby to an obstetrical unit.

“Patients deserve to have quality health care close to home,” Danielowski said in the release, and New River Medical Center’s board is committed to providing quality health care in this community for a long time to come. When a test or procedure can be done at New River Medical Center