Sharon Hospital petitions state to reconsider L&D closure ruling

Sharon Hospital cited new financial evidence in asking the state Office of Health Strategy to reconsider denying the request to close labor and delivery services.

Bridget Starr Taylor

Sharon Hospital petitions state to reconsider L&D closure ruling

SHARON — Sharon Hospital has petitioned the state Office of Health Strategy (OHS) to reconsider its Final Decision denying the hospital’s request to terminate labor and delivery service.

OHS issued its decision Feb. 5, determining that the 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.

In its petition filed Feb. 20, the hospital cited new evidence regarding the current state of operations at the labor and delivery operation, as well as evidence relating to the financial health of Sharon Hospital and Nuvance Health, its parent.

The hospital also states that the Final Decision contains factual and legal errors that must be corrected, and that there is good cause to grant the petition “in order for OHS to work with Sharon Hospital to address significant new challenges to the sustainability of the L&D services in the same manner as OHS has to similarly situated providers.”

The petition, filed eight days before Northwell Health announced it planned to combine with Nuvance Health, cites updated evidence that shows the hospital is “on the precipice of having to temporarily suspend the service because it has lost essential physician coverage in recent months.

“The conditions at the Hospital related to the L&D service have meaningfully deteriorated from an already challenged state and further threaten the sustainability of the L&D service and the [hospital’s] ability to operate the L&D unit safely and reasonably.”

The petition also argues that the decision relies heavily on data about Nuvance Health’s finances in 2022, yet doesn’t account for 2023 and 2024 budgeted losses.

Sharon Hospital’s petition also states that OHS committed legal errors in applying certain statutory criteria. It also argues that OHS should reconsider its denial and negotiate conditions “for the closure of the L&D unit,” alluding to the recent agreement OHS entered with Windham Hospital in Willimantic that received approval to close its L&D unit “subject to certain conditions.”

Christina McCulloch, president of Sharon Hospital, confirmed that the announcement of Nuvance’s agreement with Northwell Health will not alter Sharon Hospital’s pursuit of permission to terminate its labor and delivery services.

“Nothing has been approved with Northwell Health,” said McCulloch. “It has to go through the regulatory process, which we think could take a year or more.”

She said that with regards to the petition for reconsideration, “nothing will change.” The petition for reconsideration, she said, is “just another step in the regulatory process with the Office of Health Strategy. And we await their response to that.”

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