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Citing expense, hospitals close maternity wards

[preamble]The inevitable push to health clinics. Malpractice costs are a leading cause as well as hospitals being headed by non business people. Doctors should not in any way shape or form run a hospital other than overseeing doctoring. Business, profitability and sustainability needs to be in the hands of people that understand it.

This again proves that our hospital system is antiquated and we have too many of them.
INteresting how the massive cost of insurance is NOT an issue or tort reform. The leading cause of problems in the medical system especially in NY. Our politicians especially Sheldon silver are making too much money off the lawyers to even touch this – hence we have a “crisis” to deflect from the real issue.

Almost like our president shooting missiles at Syria when in Benghazi we actually lost American lives – did we do anything than? Deny, deflect, diversion – triple D.
If more redundant hospitals close, what will we do with all the money we save? I got it – continue to raise premiums and develop another “crisis”[backtopost]

Private Delivery Room at Katz Women’s hospital

Several Long Island hospitals have delivered their last babies.

Facing precipitous drops in number of Long Island births – and insurance reimbursements – and steep climbs in malpractice-insurance rates, many hospitals are closing their maternity wards. Several ob/gyns are likewise steering away from obstetrics and focusing more on gynecology.

Such consolidations are creating a new medical landscape, with larger regional health-care facilities handling most births – potentially signaling the end of deliveries at the local hospital.

The North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System plans to close Plainview Hospital’s 15-bed maternity ward, 10 years after it closed the Glen Cove Hospital maternity ward and eight after it closed the maternity unit at Valley Stream’s Franklin Hospital.

In 2004, Catholic Health Services of Long Island cited high costs when it closed the maternity ward at New Island Hospital, now known as St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Observers should not misconstrue this as a lack of commitment to babies or women, according to North Shore-LIJ spokesman Terry Lynam, who said the system has been expanding maternity wards at larger hospitals.

“We’re certainly investing in women’s health,” Lynam said. “But trying to maintain the smaller programs is becoming more difficult.”

Maternity wards are expensive, due primarily to the wide range of around-the-clock staff they require, and “when expenses significantly surpass revenues, folks begin to look at ways to save money,” noted Dr. Arthur Fougner, an ob/gyn in Flushing.

“If you can’t change what’s going on with declining payments,” Fougner said, “you have to figure out how to cut overhead.”

Also challenging those bottom lines: an aging Long Island population creating lower birth rates and obstetrician malpractice rates ranging as high as $200,000 annually – nearly twice the rates paid by gynecologists.

“Running maternity wards is an expensive proposition,” agreed Ed Amsler, a vice president at Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Co., which insures 60 hospitals, 17,000 physicians, 4,200 dentists and thousands of other New York providers and facilities. “One factor in that is professional liability insurance.”

Meanwhile, a new generation of maternity words is putting the pressure on older wards to renovate or shut down. North Shore-LIJ has invested $300 million in its Katz Women’s Hospitals at North Shore University and the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, including new maternity wards featuring private rooms.

“A lot of patients who would normally go to the local place see this and say, ‘I want to go there,’” Fougner said. “There’s patient demand.”

In 2012, Manhasset’s North Shore University Hospital delivered 6,343 babies in its 73-bed unit, while Long Island Jewish delivered 5,879 – collectively, a 13 percent increase over the two facilities’ 2011 totals.

Those increases contrast delivery declines at many smaller hospitals. Between 2011 and 2012, births dipped from 1,429 to 1,167 at Plainview Hospital, which is projecting only 1,000 total births in 2013.

“It really is a volume issue,” Lynam said of North Shore-LIJ’s plans to close the Plainview maternity ward. “It would be a financial issue if we maintained the maternity ward and the volume continued to drop.”

Sometimes, closing the maternity ward at one local hospital can benefit the maternity ward at another. North Shore-LIJ hoped closing the New Island/St. Joseph’s ward would benefit the Plainview ward, for instance, but that didn’t materialize.

And upgrading older maternity wards to keep up with newer models is not always easy and rarely practical, Lynam noted.

“Even if we invested millions of dollars to renovate [the Plainview maternity ward], we still wouldn’t be able to configure the space in a way that would provide families with private rooms,” he said.

Long Island still has plenty of maternity wards: North Shore-LIJ alone operates additional delivery facilities at Huntington and Southside hospitals, Forest Hills Hospital in Queens and Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan.

With so many regional options, North Shore-LIJ officials believe the Island’s expectant families are still well-served.

“Is it unreasonable for people to drive 15 or 20 minutes to deliver their babies?” Lynam asked.

The answer, according to Fougner, “depends on how fast your labor’s going.

“And it depends on the time of day,” the ob/gyn added. “If you’re on the Long Island Expressway, it might be a problem.”