Delaware County Memorial Hospital in Drexel Hill will be shutting down its maternity unit effective Jan. 21. The inpatient obstetrics unit — which includes labor and delivery, neonatal intensive care, and maternal fetal medicine — will be moving to Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland.
In a statement to WHYY News, a spokesperson for Crozer Health, which operates both Delaware County facilities, said the move will allow for the hospital “to be able to continue providing the highest quality care and maintain staffing and services for our community.”
“Outpatient women’s and children’s services — including offices for obstetrics, gynecology, and pediatrics — will remain at Delaware County Memorial Hospital, ensuring patients will still receive care close to where they live and work. In addition, Crozer Health is exploring transportation options for patients who may struggle with reliable transportation,” the statement reads.
The closure of the unit at Delaware County Memorial Hospital follows a trend in this region. Between 1997 and 2009, more than a dozen maternity wards or hospitals containing labor and delivery units closed in Philadelphia. In 2009, just six hospitals were delivering babies in the city. Of those, Hahnemann University Hospital was shuttered in 2019.
More recently, doctors at Temple have sounded the alarm about the health system’s plan to relocate the labor and delivery unit from its main campus to its new women’s hospital. The medical professionals told WHYY News that they would not feel comfortable practicing there because there would not be an emergency department or intraoperative support for patients.
Soon, just two hospitals in Delaware County will provide such services: Crozer-Chester Medical Center and Riddle Hospital, which is part of the Main Line Health system.
Less access to obstetrical medicine is unlikely to help the county improve maternal, infant, and child health. According to a 2020 Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health report on health and delivery of public health services that was commissioned by the County Council, Delco performed worse than Montgomery, Lancaster, York, and Berks counties in first-trimester prenatal care, low birth weight, and infant mortality rate. Chester County outperformed Delco in two of those categories, as well.
For employees of Delaware County Memorial Hospital’s maternity unit, it’s unclear what the future holds.
The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, the union that represents workers at the hospital, said in a statement that it is “gravely disappointed” in Prospect Medical Holdings Inc., owner of Crozer Health, for closing the maternity and neonatal intensive care unit.
“We are focused on making sure all 52 nurses and technical personnel who work in labor and delivery are offered positions. Prospect needs to focus on making sure these highly qualified and experienced health care professionals are retained and that we do not lose additional nursing staff from our Hospital,” the statement read.
Crozer Health was delivering about 3,500 babies a year at the two hospitals.
Saturdays just got more interesting.