Attorney General Tong Seeks Scrutiny of Proposed Closure of Labor and Delivery Services at Sharon Hospital(Hartford, CT) – In comments submitted today to the Office of Health Strategy, Attorney General William Tong urged regulators to thoroughly review the community impact of a proposed closure of labor and delivery services at Sharon Hospital.
Attorney General Tong has received over 300 petitions from concerned community members in opposition to the closure. The Office of Health Strategy is holding a public hearing today on the requested closure, and is the state regulatory body charged with either granting or denying the “Certificate of Need” required for Sharon Hospital to proceed with the requested closure.
In his comments, Attorney General Tong recognized the challenges presented by the hospital, including limited financial resources, declining birth rate, and challenges attracting and retaining professional staff. That being said, Attorney General Tong noted that these reasons must be balanced with the needs of the community. He notes the hospital’s own 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment that identifies “women’s and maternal healthcare” as an issue of high importance to area residents. The report cites “wide disparities” in access to prenatal care among people of color, as well as a disproportionate number of people in the hospital’s service area receiving late or no prenatal care as compared to the state average.
“The applicant’s proposal to close labor and delivery services risks exacerbating the very health disparities identified in the applicant’s own CHNA. 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,” Attorney General Tong states.
The alternate labor and delivery locations identified by the applicant are Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington (25 miles away), Danbury Hospital (40 miles away), Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, Massachusetts (25 miles away), Northern Dutchess Hospital (32 miles away) and Vassar Brothers Medical Center (34 miles away), both in New York.
“Before requiring parents without transportation to travel 25+ miles to another labor and delivery unit, asking a mother in active labor to travel to travel 40 minutes or more for maternity services, perhaps paying thousands of dollars for emergency transport, or asking a family living paycheck to paycheck to pay thousands of dollars for out-of-network care, the applicant should demonstrate that there is a clear public need for the proposal,” Attorney General Tong states.
Elsewhere in Connecticut, several maternity units have closed, and hospitals are seeking approval to close others. Rockville Hospital announced the closure of its maternity unit in 2010, citing declining birth rates, the departure of an obstetrician and difficulty recruiting physicians. Since then, Milford and New Milford Hospitals have closed their maternity wards. In addition to Sharon Hospital, Windham Hospital and Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford Springs are currently proposing to close their maternity units.