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Sentara Halifax Hospital closing obstetric unit, what you need to know if you're a patient

Inside the rooms are delivery beds, bassinets, and large walk-in showers. (Credit: Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital)
Inside the rooms are delivery beds, bassinets, and large walk-in showers. (Credit: Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital)
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There is new news for expecting mothers in the Southside.

In May, Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital (SHRH) will begin phasing out obstetric services (care of women during pregnancy in childbirth).

Like rural hospitals across the country, SHRH said it has seen a significant decrease in births in recent years due to changing demographics, aging populations, and a national declining birth rate.

In 2018 there were 363 deliveries, and in 2022 there were only 244. This is a 33% decrease in just five years and the hospital said it anticipates that this decline will continue.

According to SHRH, a recent report found there were 217 obstetric unit closures in rural hospitals since 2011.

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“While we are saddened to have to make this difficult decision, as the healthcare needs of our community changes, we must also evolve to best meet those needs. This was not a decision we made lightly. Despite our efforts to try to continue this program, due to a significant drop in the number of births over the past couple of years, the ability to continue to offer obstetrics services is no longer feasible for our hospital,” said Brian Zwoyer, president of SHRH. “We also know there are a number of changes happening at SHRH currently and we understand that this can be unsettling. While the decision to build a new acute care hospital is not directly related to this decision, it is necessary in order to meet the needs of the community in the future given the aging and shrinking population.”

Current obstetrics patients delivering prior to August 4 will be contacted directly to arrange continued services through the end of their pregnancy.

Obstetrics patients who are projected to deliver after August 4 will be contacted and supported in their transition to other regional obstetrics providers.

"We actually have letters that will be going out to our current patient population. We have a team that will be making phone calls to our patients. We're still in the process of developing a plan on transfer and transfer care," Zwoyer said.

SHRH said women’s health care will continue to be provided, including gynecology services and mammograms, as well as care for children of all ages.

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“We understand that this will be difficult for our SHRH colleagues, and we are focused on supporting them through this transition,” said Dr. James Priest, chief medical officer for SHRH, “My children were all born at this hospital, and I have fond memories of those special moments as many members of this community do. This was a very difficult and emotional decision, but it will help ensure services are aligned to put the hospital in a position to be sustainable in the long term. While I am saddened by this, I know that in order to continue to care for this community for years to come it is a necessary decision."

In April 2022, ABC 13 covered the opening of the hospital's brand-new state-of-the-art $3.5 million maternity ward. Now, its future use is unclear.

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