Nurses Express Concern over OB, Skilled Nursing Unit Closures at Ashtabula County Medical Center

Nurses say the closure poses risks for the community.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 24, 2020

Contact: Molly Homan, 614-746-9914, mhoman@ohnurses.org
Anne Ransone, 614-975-0485, aransone@ohnurses.org

ASHTABULA, Ohio – Nurses at Ashtabula County Medical Center are gravely concerned about the consequences that will result from the Medical Center’s decision to close the obstetrics birthing (OB) unit and skilled nursing unit. In yesterday’s announcement to employees, the Cleveland Clinic affiliated Medical Center stated plans to phase out deliveries on August 1, 2020.

“This announcement is a shock. We care about our community and are not in favor of removing access to essential services such as OB and skilled nursing. Patients and physicians alike rave about the excellent care both units provide. Why the Medical Center has chosen not to invest in these valuable services is incomprehensible,” stated Chris Eisengart, an OB nurse who has been with the Medical Center for 22 years.

“OB services are already limited in our area. We receive all transfers from the Geneva and Conneaut Medical Centers and without our unit, mothers and babies will have to travel 35 to 45 minutes to receive the care we currently provide. Those are precious minutes, especially in emergent situations where we keep mothers and babies alive while waiting hours for life flight or ambulance services to transfer these patients to intensive care units,” continued Eisengart.

According to the Medical Center, one reason for the closure is because the majority of births happen outside of the county as a reason to close the OB unit. This statistic discounts the needs of the rest of Ashtabula’s residents who may be impoverished and not able to travel out of county for deliveries.
Ashtabula’s poverty rate sits at 17.4% according to U.S. Census statistics. This above the Ohio average of 14%.

OB closures are an ongoing trend seen across rural American. According to a research team led by the Yale School of Public Health, travel distances to a hospital OB unit for economically disadvantaged women has increased over a 10-year period.

The study further suggests that a travel burden may place women and their babies at risk, with a travel distance of more than 30 miles is a factor in unhealthy birth outcomes. Women of Ashtabula will need to travel 30 miles or more once the OB unit closes at the Medical Center.

“We also cannot expect women who are impoverished or with limited transportation to deliver outside of their community. Not only is it unfair to this vulnerable population, it places undue burden on emergency room (ER) staff because these same women will ultimately be forced to deliver in the ER. Emergency room staff currently rely on OB nurses to triage situations with pregnant patients. Now that same ER staff will be additionally burdened with emergency deliveries without the expertise of OB nurses and physicians. Even with the limited training they may receive, emergency medicine is the specialty of ER staff, not obstetrics,” stated Jill Koski, an ER nurse with 27 years’ experience with the Medical Center.

The Ohio Nurses Association represents approximately 20 nurses between the OB and skilled nursing units.

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About ONA: Formed in 1904, the Ohio Nurses Association is a powerful network of registered nurses who are committed to advancing nursing through education, political action and workplace advocacy. ONA is the leading voice of the approximately 190,000 professional registered nurses in Ohio. To become a member of the Ohio Nurses Association, visit www.ohnurses.org.