NMMC to close maternity services by end of May

Published: May. 9, 2023 at 5:43 PM EDT
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FORT KENT, Maine (WAGM) - Northern Maine Medical Center has announced that it will close its Obstetrics Unit effective May 26, 2023. A continuing decline in the birth rate throughout the hospitals primary service area, as well as recruiting of skilled OB professionals have influenced the hospital’s decision, according to a spokesperson for the hospital. Jeff Zewe, RN, and Chief Executive Officer at NMMC says closing the Obstetrics Unit was a difficult decision but one that is in the best interest of the health and safety of patients.

“Northern Maine Medical Center has a long and proud history of offering Maternity Care”, says Zewe. “The number of deliveries has continued to decline, and recruiting and retaining Obstetric staff with so few deliveries has been an ongoing challenge. While we are disappointed that we have had to make this decision, we will continue to provide quality healthcare to all patients including expectant women through our primary care and other specialty services”.

According to a spokesperson for Northern Maine Medical Center, recently, many rural hospitals across the country have closed Maternity services. They say this is part of a trend that is happening to maternity units throughout the country in rural areas. Between 2006 and 2020, more than 400 rural maternity units closed in the U.S. including rural hospitals in Maine.

CEO Zewe also announced that the hospital has been in discussions with Cary Medical Center CEO, Kris Doody regarding the establishment of outpatient clinics for prenatal and post-partum care at NMMC.

“NMMC and Cary Medical Center have a long history of collaboration,” says Zewe. Several Cary physicians currently provide services at NMMC and Cary physicians have referred patients to our psychiatric services for many years. Working together we can ensure that our local community will continue to have access to prenatal and post-partum care in the St. John Valley.

The details for the new model of maternity services are still under discussion, however, Cary’s CEO Doody says the collaboration between Cary and NMMC has been happening for decades and she expects them to continue into the future.

“It has been a great and mutually beneficial relationship”, says Doody, who is also the CEO for Pines Health Services, a Federally Qualified Health Center based in Caribou. “We look forward to expanding our collaboration by providing outpatient Obstetrics and Nurse Midwifery care at Northern Maine Medical Center in the near future.”

Expectant women can continue to deliver babies at Cary Medical Center in Caribou which has recently completed a major renovation of its Obstetrics unit. The hospital is also expanding its staff of Certified Nurse Midwives.

Any NMMC employee who may be impacted by this change, will be offered positions within the organization.

Patients with questions about the change of service should call the Director of Communications at NMMC at 834-3155.