The North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System plans to convert a maternity ward at Plainview Hospital into a surgical center by Nov. 1 because of declining births at the hospital, a spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
The health care system called the move necessary, but some medical professionals said it would leave the area's expectant mothers poorly served. Earlier this month North Shore-LIJ applied to the state Health Department to decertify the 15-bed maternity ward, spokesman Terry Lynam said.
"We are going to convert the space into either other medical surgical beds or into a surgical suite -- in other words operating rooms," Lynam said. "The space will be repurposed."
Births at the hospital are expected to fall to 1,000 this year, continuing a downward trend from 1,430 in 2011, Lynam said. Though the ward is not losing money, it will if births continue to fall, he said. The hospital is an acute care community hospital with 219 beds.
Attending physicians who refer their patients to the hospital say closing the ward means patients would have to travel farther for care.
"There really is no ob-gyn in the vicinity without going 20 or 30 minutes away," said Irwin Goldstein, an obstetrician and gynecologist. "It's leaving a big void." He said he planned to meet with other doctors Wednesday to plan a strategy to fight the plan.
Doctors said that if Plainview's maternity center closes, they would send patients to Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola or South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside.
Lewis Rosenberg, director of gynecology at St. Joseph Hospital in Bethpage, said that over the last few years small hospitals in the Nassau-Suffolk corridor have been giving up obstetrics.
"Now you got to a point where all these people that live in this area . . . are all going to be forced to go to larger centers," Rosenberg said.
Jill Furillo, executive director of the New York State Nurses Association, which represents nurses whose jobs will be lost, said the union was concerned that profits were being put before patients.
"All patients should have access to quality care," Furillo said in a statement. "The impact of the elimination of the ob-gyn department at NS-LIJ Plainview could force families to travel farther for care."
Lynam said the added distance was "reasonable" and that Plainview would still provide gynecological surgery and its emergency department would still handle obstetric and gynecological emergencies.
More women are choosing to go to larger medical centers that have advanced obstetrics and gynecology facilities like the Katz Women's hospitals in Manhasset and New Hyde Park, both of which are also part of the North Shore-LIJ system, he said. They have neonatal intensive care units and high-risk maternity specialists, he said. Last year, 12,220 babies were delivered at those facilities.