Heywood Hospital in Gardner sees 33% drop in maternity births

GARDNER -Concerns about access to safe maternity care in North Worcester Country have not gone away since last month’s decision by UMass Memorial Health to close its maternity ward in Leominster.

When UMass closed the facility on Sept. 23, it primarily cited falling birth rates and a lack of staff for the move. UMass officials also said Heywood Hospital in Gardner, the closest hospital to the closed Leominster facility, was an option for patients needing maternity care.

But Heywood encountered financial challenges.

The nonprofit community hospital not only filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this month, but also saw a 33% decline in the number of births in its maternity ward. In 2022, 304 births took place at the center, compared to 455 in 2016, according to the state Department of Public Health. So far this year, as of October 5, the center has had 241 births.

The 33% drop is a familiar number, because the Leominster facility had a corresponding percentage decline of 511 births in fiscal year 2022, compared to 762 in fiscal year 2017, according to UMass Memorial records with the state .

Now, the convergence between Heywood’s bankruptcy filing and the drop in births has one health policy expert uncomfortable about how pregnant mothers will access maternity care in north-central Worcester County.

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