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Sharon Hospital seeking to close maternity services requires scrutiny, attorney general says

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Connecticut’s Attorney General William Tong urged the Office of Health Strategy to thoroughly review the impact of a proposed closure of labor and delivery services at Sharon Hospital.

Over 300 petitions in opposition of the closure from concerned community members have been sent to Tong, who is concerned how the closure will affect patients.

“The applicant’s proposal to close labor and delivery services risks exacerbating the very health disparities identified in the applicant’s own CHN,” Tong said in a statement. “In the absence of labor and delivery services at Sharon Hospital, patients, particularly Medicaid and other low-income patients, will have to seek these services elsewhere and may face new access and cost barriers.”

Rural hospitals in the state have been cutting back on various health services since 2010, citing funding cuts, a declining birthrate in Connecticut, and difficulty attracting and retaining professional staff.

If the closure is approved by the Office of Health Strategy, mothers in labor may have to travel more than 25 miles, potentially taking 40 minutes to reach an alternative hospital with maternity services.

Sharon Hospital’s administration told residents during a hearing on Tuesday that the closure of this service was done to save costs and ensure the hospital's survival. Dr. John Murphy, president and CEO of Nuvance Health, said that the hospital reportedly lost over $20 million dollars in 2020 and 2021.

“The bottom line here is that the current model of providing care and the services that we provide and the manner in which they are provided is simply not sustainable,” Murphy said during the hearing. “We saw this a couple of years ago, this trend, and by the way, this trend is facing hospitals across the United States.”

In addition to Sharon Hospital, Windham Hospital and Johnson Memorial Hospital have also proposed to close their maternity units.

Alternate labor and delivery locations include Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, Danbury Hospital and Northern Dutchess Hospital.

Eric Warner is a news fellow at WSHU.