Little Rock's CHI St. Vincent hospital will phase out labor, delivery and neonatal intensive care services over the next few months, aiming to end the programs by March.
That date could change because of births already scheduled, according to a written statement from the hospital.
CHI St. Vincent's will offer the programs' 65 nursing staff members other positions within its central Arkansas system, and physicians will still work in women's health services, according to the hospital's statement.
Hospitals in Hot Springs and southwest Arkansas will will provide delivery services.
"... We will continue to grow that program in the southwest Arkansas community where there are few other options for care for pregnant women," CEO Chad Aduddell wrote in a letter released Thursday on a CHI St. Vincent blog.
Aduddell also wrote that the hospital is working on partnerships to ensure that St. Vincent employees who are pregnant or become pregnant receive covered labor and delivery care.
Officials considered the decision for about a year and a half before deciding that there were enough hospitals offering delivery in central Arkansas, according to the statement. UAMS Medical Center and Baptist Health Medical Center provide maternity services, including births.
Cam Patterson, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences chancellor, said he had been talking with CHI St. Vincent executives for about two weeks.
The teaching hospital was already making plans to expand its delivery services, he said. The hospital already has room to accommodate at least 800 more births per year.
"The leadership at St. Vincent reached out to us as soon as this appeared to be a possibility," Patterson said. "We have careful plans to make sure that we are able to accommodate an increase in deliveries and babies who require [intensive] care."
Some mothers getting care at St. Vincent are already scheduling appointments at UAMS, said Leslie Taylor, the UAMS vice chancellor for communications and marketing.
In 2016, a peak year for births in Little Rock, UAMS delivered 3,828 babies. Usually, closer to 3,400 are born there per year. A St. Vincent representative could not confirm the number of births the hospital had last year.
There are three positions open for registered nurses on the UAMS delivery ward, Taylor said.
Patterson said he anticipates that some nurses from CHI St. Vincent who want to stay in obstetrics might fill the open spots.
UAMS could "easily absorb" St. Vincent's patients from the neonatal intensive care unit, Patterson said.
The obstetricians at UAMS are high-risk pregnancy specialists. The neonatal care unit has 64 private rooms where new mothers can stay with their babies. It's the only hospital in the state where moms can stay with their babies.
Six of the rooms can be rearranged to make room for twins, triplets or quadruplets, Taylor said.
Patterson said he thinks it is more efficient to have two larger programs -- at UAMS and Baptist -- than two large programs and a small one.
"I think from a patient experience standpoint, this is very good for moms," Patterson said.
Baptist Health did not return phone calls asking for comment.
A Section on 12/08/2018
Print Headline: St. Vincent eliminating its Little Rock birth programs