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PMH cuts women's unit

PRINCETON — There will be no more pink and blue booties. Proud parents and grandparents will no longer admire the newest addition to the family through the glass of the hospital's nursery. The squall of a newborn brought into the world won't be heard.

It is an end of an era at Perry Memorial Hospital (PMH) in Princeton.

PMH CEO Rex Conger announced Thursday the city-owned hospital will close its Women's Healthcare Unit, which includes obstetrics, labor, delivery and nursery services. The expected closure date is Jan. 1, 2014.

The decision was not an easy or a quick one.

"We believe almost everyone recognizes health care is dynamic and constantly changing," Conger said. "Health care facilities and providers across the nation are impacted by these changes and are attempting to adjust, so they can continue to serve the health care needs in their area."

Conger said the past 10 years has been filled with many changes — most if not all affecting the facility's bottom line. On April 30 — the end of the hospital's fiscal year, PMH showed a year-to date loss of more than $640,000.

Regulatory changes, changes in patient volumes, payer mix and significant reductions in state and federal reductions are many of the issues which helped PMH make the tough decision to close the Women's Healthcare Unit, which employs 12 staff members.

Conger said PMH is expecting to receive about $546,000 less in reimbursement from Medicare this year and about $600,000 less in state reimbursements.

"Perry is anticipating at least $1.1 million less in reimbursement during their current fiscal year, while trying to provide the same level of quality care and customer service," Conger said.

In the last 10 years, Perry's volume of deliveries has declined by 38 percent, with the hospital seeing less than 100 babies born each year for the last two years. Half of those patients used Medicaid as their source of payment; the state, which is significantly behind in the payment of its claims, reimburses PMH, on average, 17 cents for every dollar's worth of care provided.

"The result is that Perry's Women's Healthcare Unit ... is no longer able to support itself," Conger said, adding last year's loss in the unit was $500,000.

Conger said the hospital is constantly looking at ways to create additional revenue and limit expenses. He said PMH is not looking at closing other units or limiting other services, rather "We are looking to add some new services that could provide additional volume and revenue," he said, adding PMH's Emergency Room will still be able to perform emergency deliveries.

Regarding the 12 staff members who work in the women's unit, Conger said they will be able to apply for other positions in the hospital, and PMH will do everything it can to help those staff members through the transition.

"PMH is committed to continuing to provide the highest level of care and customer service to our patients, and we regret this change is necessary," Conger concluded.

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