WAREHAM — The Department of Public Health will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, October 23 regarding Southcoast Hospitals Group's proposed closure of the maternity unit at Tobey Hospital.

The proposal had drawn strong opposition from many local local nurses, obstetricians, midwives, women’s health advocates, and elected officials.

The hearing will be held at 6 p.m. at the Rosebrook Event Center located at 50 Rosebrook Place, Wareham.

Southcoast, which also owns and operates St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford and Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River, plans to close Tobey’s maternity unit on December 31 of this year. Following that closure, Tobey patients requiring maternity care will be directed to
St. Luke’s Hospital.

Concerned patients and advocates say this decision is misguided and comes with unique risks, especially given that nearly all of the communities that neighbor Tobey are currently without maternity services.

Other hospitals have already closed their maternity units, including Morton Hospital in Taunton. This has created what local healthcare advocates are calling a “maternity-care desert for expectant mothers.”

“Losing this unit will rip open the fabric of our local healthcare safety net. There will be a gap in care, and too many people will fall into that gap: mothers, babies, and families. And, in the end, whole communities will suffer because that gap will never be repaired," said Sharon Miksch, a Tobey RN and chairperson of the bargaining unit.

Nurses working in the maternity unit at St. Luke's and Brockton Hospital have recently reported spikes in patient census and, as a result, have had difficulty maintaining safe nurse-staffing levels. Meanwhile, Good Samaritan Hospital has had difficulty retaining obstetricians.

The MNA has been tracking an increase in the closure of maternity and other services across the state and will be actively engaged with the DPH, local community groups, and policymakers to advocate for the continuation of this service. As hospitals have consolidated into massive corporate networks, there has been a move to close local services and force patients into accessing care at larger hospitals farther away — a change that is especially difficult for low-income patients and their families.