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UH ends labor and delivery services at Lake West in Willoughby

University Hospitals main campus in Cleveland
Stephanie Czekalinski
/
Ideastream
University Hospitals main campus in Cleveland. The hospital system plans to end labor and delivery at its Lake West Hospital because of declining birth rates in Northeast Ohio, hospital officials said.

University Hospitals will shut down labor and delivery services at Lake West Hospital in Willoughby on April 15, hospital officials said.

The Cleveland-based health system plans to consolidate obstetrics care at TriPoint Medical Center in Concord Township near Painesville.

The two hospitals are about 15 miles, or 20 minutes apart, UH officials said.

Cleveland Clinic’s Euclid Hospital which is the closest hospital to Lake West also doesn’t provide labor and delivery services.

UH made the decision to end obstetric service at Lake West based on projections that Northeast Ohio's birth rate will continue to fall over the next 10 years, said Dr. Robyn Strosaker, UH Lake Health president and chief operating officer. More mothers are also having challenging births and need specialists, she said.

"We know that the safest newborn and maternal care really happens at sites that have high numbers of deliveries and that have higher level of services to accommodate moms who might have additional comorbidities,” Strosaker said.

Several pregnant patients, who lived near Willoughby, had to seek care at the main campus because of conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes, which in some cases make it unsafe for them to deliver in Lake County, she said.

With expanded services at TriPoint opening in the fall, patients with those types of complications will be able to deliver closer to home, Strosaker said.

UH is also opening a specialized pregnancy care department at Ahuja Medical Center in Beachwood this summer. Both facilities will have advanced neonatal intensive care units, which support premature babies with serious health issues, she said.

The growing number of hospitals cutting their maternity wards across the region is concerning said Tom Campanella, health care executive in residence at Baldwin Wallace University.

"There will be more closings, not just in Northeast Ohio, but throughout the country of hospital services. And certainly, there will be more consolidations," Campanella said. "And that's for a lot of reasons and a lot of it will be driven by finances, quite bluntly."

Hospitals will continue to evaluate all their service lines based on the revenue they get, and the number of patients that use those services, he said.

Including this most recent closing in Willoughby, some four maternity units have closed in the last three years.

Last November, UH moved its labor and delivery department from UH Portage Medical Center twenty-five miles north to Geauga Medical Center. And Summa Health announced that same month it would move its Barberton maternity unit to its main campus in Akron. In 2020, the last labor and delivery unit in Ashtabula County closed.

This national trend is especially concerning in rural communities, Campanella said.

"Two out of the three closings that are occurring (in Northeast Ohio) in maternity areas are actually in rural areas,” he said. “That’s an area where there really are challenges. You're talking about not only miles, but miles as it relates to sometimes baseline prenatal and postnatal services."

Taylor Wizner is a health reporter with Ideastream Public Media.