Sharon Hospital ordered to keep maternity services

U.S. Representative Jahana Hayes (D-5) spoke out against closing Sharon Hospital’s maternity unit at the Sharon Town Green Oct. 16, 2022.

Patrick L. Sullivan

Sharon Hospital ordered to keep maternity services

SHARON — The state Office of Health Strategy (OHS) denied Sharon Hospital’s request to close its labor and delivery (L&D) services Monday, Feb. 5.

This is OHS’ final decision in a five-year fight between Sharon Hospital and members of the local community, led by grassroots organization Save Sharon Hospital, over the closure of the hospital’s labor and delivery services.

OHS determined that Sharon Hospital’s application for a Certificate of Need (CON) failed to meet the statutory requirements intended to protect the “quality, accessibility, and cost-effectiveness of care” in the region served.

“The applicant has failed to meet its burden of proof” that this closure would not negatively affect local health care, the office wrote, coming up short in meeting four of the six criteria set forth in state law:

— That the closure would be consistent with the Connecticut Statewide Health Care Facilities and Services Plan.

— That it would improve quality, access, and cost effectiveness of care.

— That the hospital had good cause for reducing access to services by Medicaid recipients or indigent persons — more than 48% of Sharon Hospital’s labor and delivery patients paid through Medicaid in 2021.

— That the closure would have no negative impact on the diversity of health care providers and patient choice.

The decision concluded: “Based upon the foregoing Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Discussion, the Certificate of Need application of Sharon Hospital to terminate L&D services is hereby ordered DENIED.”

This decision in large parts echoes the OHS’ “preliminary decision,” handed down Aug. 29, 2023, which determined that L&D closure would failed to meet the agency’s criteria for a CON: “public need, access to care and cost-effectiveness.”

Sharon Hospital owner Nuvance Health appealed this proposed final decision Oct. 18. The brief and exceptions filed by the hospital argued, in effect, that the Sharon Hospital primary service area has less need for an operating maternity ward than it has for the cessation of financially unsustainable services.

On Nov. 8, 2023, Nuvance counsel Ted Tucci presented an oral argument for the closure of Sharon Hospital’s L&D services, saying that the proposed final “decision threatens Sharon Hospital’s ability to continue delivering care to Northwestern Connecticut.”

Nuvance Health originally filed a Certificate of Need to close the hospital’s maternity unit with OHS in January 2022, citing an annual loss of $3 million, staffing difficulties, and underutilization of the services as its key reasons for the proposed closure.

The $3 million loss at the hospital’s L&D unit contributes to the hospital’s overall annual losses of over $20 million.

In a brief statement to The Journal on Monday, Feb. 5, Sharon Hospital spokesperson Andrea Rynn wrote: “As a small community hospital within a non-profit health system, Sharon Hospital faces substantial financial and operational challenges to its continued operation of a Labor & Delivery unit.”

Since first announcing the intention to close the maternity ward in 2018, the hospital has faced stiff opposition from local community members led by grassroots 501(c)(3) organization Save Sharon Hospital.

Community members celebrated the state’s decision to maintain maternity services in Sharon.

Lydia Moore, president of Save Sharon Hospital, wrote her views in a statement to The Lakeville Journal: “We are so thankful and thrilled that the state has agreed with our community that the Sharon Hospital maternity unit must stay open! In its final decision, the state clearly shows its understanding that we need safe, high-quality, local access to labor and delivery, despite our rural location. Thank you to everyone in the community that helped us get here. It has been a long fight, but we did it!”

Rynn, on behalf of the hospital, said, “Sharon Hospital will continue to be transparent with our staff, community, and other stakeholders regarding our efforts to ensure the sustainability of Sharon Hospital.”

She said: “We will be considering all options available as we reassess our path forward.”

Latest News

Top seed Thomaston eliminates HVRHS from Berkshires tourney

Mia Dodge looked for offensive opportunities against Thomaston’s dominant defense in the Berkshire League semifinal game.

Riley Klein

WASHINGTON — Thomaston High School girls basketball defeated Housatonic Valley Regional High School (HVRHS) 53-25 in the Berkshire League tournament semifinals Tuesday, Feb. 20.

The defending champion Golden Bears advanced to the championship for a rematch of last year’s title game against Northwestern, which defeated Gilbert 61-44 in the semifinal match prior to the HVRHS/Thomaston game.

Keep ReadingShow less
Town planning to assume responsibility for local cemeteries

KENT — After months of consideration of disbanding the Kent Cemetery Association, the Board of Selectmen reviewed a nearly final draft of a new cemetery ordinance at a special workshop meeting Tuesday, Feb. 6.

If the new ordinance is approved at a town meeting, the town would take on responsibility for Kent’s six cemeteries, disbanding the association.

Keep ReadingShow less
Falls Village adopts new POCD

FALLS VILLAGE — The Board of Selectmen approved the new Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) at a special meeting Tuesday, Feb. 13, which was held in person and online.

The selectmen and the Board of Finance both held special meetings Feb. 13 because the regular meeting date of Monday, Feb. 12, was the Lincoln’s Birthday holiday.

Keep ReadingShow less
Banned Book Awards champions children’s right to read
Judy Blume connected digitally at the ceremony and was honored with a lifetime achievement award.
Alexander Wilburn

There can be no question that democratic freedoms are currently being attacked and restricted in the United States, and somehow, children and the information they have access to have been the ongoing targets of attack.

As AP News reported in 2023: “More than 1,200 challenges were compiled in 2022, nearly double the then-record total from 2021 and by far the most since the American Library Association began keeping data 20 years ago.” Conservative groups across the country have become well-organized machines harassing individual public and school librarians with threats of legal and violent action. The message from these groups, often supported by government leaders, is that children should not have access to books — books meant for young readers — that engage with topics of race, gender or sexual identity.

Keep ReadingShow less