After midnight Oct. 6, no more babies will be delivered at Doctors Hospital, Columbus Regional Healthcare System officials said Tuesday.
Labor and delivery services will be combined to create one obstetrics service at The Medical Center. Gynecological services will still be provided at Doctors, and no employees will lose their jobs, said Ryan Chandler, president and CEO of The Medical Center.
“That’s one of the most exciting things about this transition,” he said. “There will be no layoffs. Every person at Doctors Hospital and the obstetrics program at Doctors Hospital we’ve already talked to, and we’re already planning for every single person to come to The Medical Center.”
Less than three miles away, St. Francis Hospital will be adding labor and delivery this fall. The hospital plans to celebrate with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 15 and be ready for its first childbirth on Nov. 1.
A baby hasn’t been delivered at St. Francis since 1981. And the nearly three-week gap between the end of babies being delivered at Doctors and the beginning of labor and delivery services at St. Francis will mark the first time in 17 years that expectant mothers have had only one hospital option in Columbus.
Chandler said Columbus Regional has had ongoing discussions about the move for more than a year.
“We’re excited about bringing together kind of the best of two worlds into one,” he said, “and to create something bigger than what we have and to do it here at The Medical Center, where we have the neonatal intensive care unit, is important. We believe that is a real important clinical aspect.”
The Medical Center opened a new pediatrics emergency room this summer. There are no immediate plans for the OB floor at Doctors Hospital, Chandler said, but they’re in discussions with some parties to lease space in a “post-acute setting” and the hospital is developing some new programs.
“We have recently hired Tami Jackson as chief executive officer at Doctors Hospital, and Tami’s brought in a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of energy to that facility,” he said.
Chandler also said the Columbus Specialty Hospital, which leases space at The Medical Center, will be moving to Doctors Hospital.
Baby deliveries have been down at Doctors over the last few years, officials said. During the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, The Medical Center had 3,293 deliveries and Doctors Hospital had 1,019. In a news release, Jackson attributed the decline of births at Doctors to “the dynamics of our local marketplace.”
The combined service at The Medical Center will be led by Dr. Kendall Handy, chief of OB/GYN; Dawn Hurst, senior director of women’s services; and Kelly Hunter, director of labor and delivery.
“We have our perinatologists, our neonatologists and our neonatal unit,” Handy said. “So you pretty much can eliminate that anxiety of, ‘What if I don’t have that perfect pregnancy? What if at the very end something happened and my baby needs this?’ Then it’s available here 99 percent of the time. That’s one of the strong benefits for our facility.”
Doctors Hospital has had a staff delivering babies since January 1996 after a five-year battle to offer obstetrics services. The Medical Center and Doctors Hospital were legal adversaries before Columbus Regional, which already owned The Medical Center, purchased Doctors Hospital for $89.3 million in March 2008. Hughston Hospital was Columbus Regional’s next purchase, just a few months later in July 2008.
Chuck Stark, president and chief executive officer of Columbus Regional, told the Ledger-Enquirer in November that Hughston Hospital, now an orthopedic hospital, could see possible restructuring, including baby deliveries and opening an emergency room.
The possible restructuring also calls for relocating Hughston’s inpatient physical rehabilitation service to Doctors Hospital in downtown Columbus, Stark said in November.
Any changes would require approval from the Georgia Department of Community Health, with the filing of a certificate of need.
Chandler echoed Starks previous statements Wednesday, saying delivering babies at Hughston is still the goal.
“That’s the plan of one day delivering babies at the Hughston Hospital campus,” he said. “We are excited about the opportunity to one day go north. But we recognize there’s a lot of additional planning that goes into that. That’s not a plan that will come to fruition in the near term. So we’re committed to doing everything that we need to do to take care of those babies that are being born today and in the immediate future here at The Medical Center.”
DOCTORS HOSPITAL SERVICES
Here are a list of services Doctors Hospital will provide after Oct. 6: Critical care Endoscopy Imaging Laboratory Gynecology Orthopedics Pastoral care Pharmacy Rehabilitation Respiratory care Sleeping disorders (located in Main Street Village) Surgical services