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Doctors, nurses: Plans to close Plainview maternity ward could endanger patients

Physicians who refer their patients to Plainview Hospital

Physicians who refer their patients to Plainview Hospital say closing the ward means patients would have to travel farther for care. The hospital is part of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. (Aug. 13, 2013) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A group of doctors, midwives and nurses said Wednesday that North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System's plan to close its maternity ward at Plainview Hospital could endanger patients' health in emergencies.

The medical professionals, who met in Bethpage to plan how to stop the closure, said that losing a maternity delivery center in the Nassau-Suffolk corridor would lead to more babies being delivered on the Long Island Expressway. The medical service provider plans to close its birthing facilities by Nov. 1, citing declining births at the hospital.

"Lives are at stake," said Janet Herskovits, a midwife who works at Plainview. "There can be terrible traffic on Long Island."

Laurence Mack, an obstetrician and gynecologist, said that some medical complications during delivery require immediate medical attention found at a hospital with a dedicated maternity unit.

"This is a safety issue," Mack said, citing the case of a colleague whose patient may have died if she had to wait another 30 to 40 minutes to get to the hospital.

North Shore-LIJ spokesman Terry Lynam said the travel time to other facilities was "reasonable" and the Plainview facility would still handle obstetric emergencies.

The 11-member group said they would start reaching out to state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to put pressure on the state Health Department. Earlier this month, the health care system applied to the state Health Department to decertify the 15-bed maternity ward. North Shore-LIJ wants to turn the ward into either surgical medical beds or operating rooms.

Lynam said North Shore-LIJ will work with the approximately 80 employees at the maternity ward to find new jobs either at the hospital or another of its facilities.

But registered nurse Diane Welliver said that nurses at Plainview were worried that changing hospitals would have costs. That's because their compensation packages -- including salaries and pensions -- were specific to particular hospitals even if they were in the North Shore-LIJ system.

Welliver said she had no guarantee that she would be able to find work as prenatal nurse or at the same level of seniority. She said she would likely have to be retrained.