Last updated: February 20. 2014 3:59PM - 1103 Views

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ROCKINGHAM — FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital’s Board of Advisors has agreed to transfer the hospital’s labor & delivery services to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst.

The board cited the area’s increasing number of high-risk pregnancies and the availability of specialized maternal, infant and newborn care at Moore Regional Hospital, along with the cost pressures associated with declining birth rates as reasons for the decision.

The last day for deliveries at Richmond Memorial will be Feb. 28.

Although Richmond Memorial will no longer offer labor & delivery services for expectant mothers, FirstHealth OB/GYN will continue to provide prenatal care and gynecological care and surgical procedures through its clinic on Long Drive in Rockingham. Patients will be notified of this change in person at the clinic and via a letter to be sent to patient homes.

“This has been a difficult decision for all of us,” said John Jackson, president of Richmond Memorial Hospital. “However, we feel it is ultimately the best decision for our patients. Although we won’t be offering labor & delivery services at our hospital, our patients will continue to receive the excellent prenatal and gynecological care to which they have become accustomed here at home.”

According to FirstHealth officials, expectant mothers in Richmond County tend, for a variety of reasons, to have more complications and be in higher risk categories as compared to other communities. Since Moore Regional Hospital offers a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), their babies will have direct access to the highest level of care in the region with the transfer of labor & delivery services to the Pinehurst hospital.

Moore Regional’s 13-bed Clarke NICU treats premature and sick newborns and is staffed by specially trained nurses and physicians. The unit is family-centered to ensure that infants requiring more than routine nursery care can still have their families close by.

FirstHealth officials noted that the Richmond County birth rate has been trending downward sharply over the past several years, and that Richmond Memorial delivered only 333 babies in 2013 as compared to more than 600 in 2007. In addition to the steep decline in births, the number of women of child-bearing age in the county is also dropping.

These compounding issues, along with the growth in the number of higher-risk patients, contributed to the decision to transfer the service to Moore Regional hospital, the officials said.

“This decision was not made lightly,” said Daniel R. Barnes, D.O., president, FirstHealth Physician Group, “but was made in the best interest of our patients, the hospital and the community. While we know that some patients may be inconvenienced, we hope that the access to highly specialized care, in this case a unit specifically designed and equipped to handle high-risk pregnancies, as well as the continued outstanding outpatient clinic services will more than compensate.”

With the transfer of labor and delivery services to Moore Regional Hospital, all newborn screenings will be handled by the pediatrician on call. Upon their discharge from the hospital, newborns will continue to be seen by the pediatrician of the parents’ choice.

Families traveling to Pinehurst for labor and delivery services will also have access to the Clara McLean House for lodging. Designed as a “home away from home,” the Clara McLean House provides comfortable accommodations to families of patients receiving care at Moore Regional Hospital.

Over the coming months, expectant mothers and their families will be offered tours of the Clara McLean House as well as of Moore Regional’s Labor & Delivery Unit. Information on how to register for these tours can be provided by physician offices or by calling 800-213-3284.

Twenty-three full-time and five part-time employees will be impacted by discontinuing labor and delivery services at Richmond Memorial Hospital. Human Resources will offer assistance to all affected employees to find other opportunities within FirstHealth or with other health care organizations in the area. Employees unable to find a position within FirstHealth will be offered a severance package.

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