Yet another Philadelphia hospital has announced the closing of its maternity unit.
Citing financial stresses, Chestnut Hill Hospital said yesterday that it would stop delivering babies by Nov. 4 and close its maternity unit Nov. 7. Seventy hospital employees will lose their jobs.
Since 1997, 15 hospitals in the region have closed their maternity units. Most say the combination of high malpractice insurance and low insurance reimbursements makes the service a money loser. With Chestnut Hill's unit closed, only seven hospitals in Philadelphia will offer obstetrical care.
Chestnut Hill has been delivering babies for 104 years. "We take no joy in doing this," Brooks Turkel, the hospital's chief executive officer, said yesterday. The hospital delivers about 1,000 babies a year, or 2 percent of the 53,000 babies born annually in Philadelphia and the four suburban Pennsylvania counties.
Maternity care and the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit were losing $2.5 million a year, he said. It was too expensive for a relatively small program to support the NICU, he said, but that was the standard of care Philadelphians expect.
The hospital plans to expand gynecological care and treatments for aging women - more profitable services that are in higher demand in nearby neighborhoods. Forty percent of maternity patients have been coming from Germantown, Turkel said.
At 4.7 miles away, Albert Einstein Medical Center has the maternity unit closest to Chestnut Hill. Others within seven miles are Abington Memorial, Temple University, Lankenau and Mercy Suburban hospitals.
Turkel said his hospital had been delivering three babies a day, not enough to strain his neighbors.
Einstein has had a 40 percent increase in obstetrical volume in the last six years because of other closures. It is in the midst of a $10 million maternity-unit expansion.
"We are in the process of analyzing what additional resources would be required to accommodate this new need," said Alexis Moore, an Einstein spokeswoman.
Chestnut Hill has five obstetricians and the full-time equivalent of nine midwives. Turkel expects one or two of the doctors to convert to pure gynecology. The other doctors and midwives will have to find another place to practice.
Chestnut Hill Hospital is part of the for-profit Community Health Systems Inc. chain. The University of Pennsylvania Health System owns a 15 percent stake in it. Penn wanted to keep the program open, Turkel said. "While they understood, it is not their preference that this [closing] occur."
In a joint news release, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council said Chestnut Hill's decision "demonstrates the region's continuing crisis in obstetrical care."
The two said they were working together to ensure continued access and were tracking maternity volumes.