ASHTABULA — Nurses in ACMC’s maternity ward were informed that they needed to be on a conference call at 3:45 on Tuesday, June 23.
On that conference call, they were informed that the ACMC board had voted to close the hospital’s obstetrics and skilled-nursing units.
The hospital’s OB ward will stop delivering babies on August 1, according to a statement from ACMC.
Multiple maternity ward nurses spoke to the Star Beacon about their feelings after the announcement, and what comes next.
Roxanne Ackroyd has worked in the OB ward for 28-plus years, she said. Ackroyd saId when she heard the announcement she felt like someone had died.
Working in the OB ward isn’t just a job, she said. Ackroyd has a passion for working at the OB ward.
“We love what we do,” she said.
Chris Eisengart has worked in the OB ward for 22 years.
“We’re heartbroken over the loss of our department and the essential service that it provides to our community,” she said.
Sherry Hernandez has worked at the OB ward for 22 years.
“It was just a shock,” she said about the closing.
Hernandez said she started working at ACMC when she was 20 years old.
The ACMC OB unit can stabilize infants and mothers before sending them for a higher level of care.
“Without that ability to stabilize and take care of these patients before they’re transferred, we probably will have loss, ... either losses of mothers or their babies,” Ackroyd said. “We put our lives into these people, and we just don’t want that to happen.”
“We can be quiet, and nothing really going on, and all of the sudden we have a severe emergency that presents itself,” Ackroyd said. “The whole entire thing can happen in 30 minutes. We are qualified to take care of those emergencies, but ... the staff in the ER are not prepared to do OB, because that’s not what they trained to do.”
The OB unit currently provides triage for pregnant people who come into the hospital, Ackroyd said.
“I don’t know who will be doing that triage now, and will they just put everyone in an ambulance and transfer them no matter what,” Ackroyd said. “I don’t know. I don’t know what the plan is. They haven’t discussed that with us yet.”
ACMC suggested expecting mothers go to Hillcrest Hospital, located in Mayfield Heights. Hillcrest is a 51-mile drive from ACMC.
Hernandez timed the drive from Ashtabula to Hillcrest Hospital at 51 minutes, she said. Hillcrest does not accept the insurance that many of the OB ward’s patients have, Hernandez said.
“That would lose a bunch of patients,” she said.
There are patients who can’t afford to buy gas to drive to ACMC for their appointments, Ackroyd said. Some patients walk to the hospital for their appointments or come by ambulance, she said.
“Our huge concern is for the women and the children that are left here that cannot get out of the county, that cannot get care, because they do not have the transportation,” Ackroyd said. “They do not have the ability, or they have other things that are affecting their lives, like an addiction. And they won’t get care any place else, and they’ll just present to our hospital.”
Getting patients to Hillcrest will be difficult in the winter months, Ackroyd said.
A higher level
Part of ACMC’s rationale for closing the OB ward is that there is less than an average of one birth per day at the hospital, according to the press release announcing the closint. The decision to refer expecting mothers to Hillcrest Hospital would ensure patients had a higher level of care, ACMC officials contend.
Hillcrest Hospital has a level-three nursery, with a neonatal intensive care unit, and ACMC has a level-one nursery, according to the statement.
All of the hospital’s high-risk patients are already sent to Hillcrest Hospital, Eisengart said.
Eisengart suggested improving ACMC’s nursery to level two.
“We would have increased our deliveries, we would have been able to keep our patients in our own community, and all the revenue would have went back to the hospital,” Eisengart said.
Nurses from the OB ward have not had a chance to share their concerns with hospital leadership, Eisengart said.
None of the nurses planned to leave ACMC after the closure.
“I would rather stick with what I’m doing, but I do not want to leave the community, because I felt my job is for the community,” Ackroyd said.
She moved to the area almost 29 years ago.
“I’ve been here 22 years,” Eisengart said. “I live in the community. My kids have gone to school in the community, they’re all graduates of Lakeside High School, and I plan to continue to serve my community, but I’m not happy about it.”
Hernandez is hoping that the decision is reversed.
“This is our passion,” she said. “This is why we became nurses. This is what we want to do. So all of us want to stay where we’re at.”
The Ohio Nurses Association launched a website on Wednesday, saveashtabulaob.com, where people concerned about the closing can sign a petition urging the hospital to keep the OB and skilled-nursing units.
ACMC officials declined to comment for this story.