Push for faster return of NCBH maternity unit

Push for faster return of NCBH maternity unit
Photo by Jaime Williams

Nurses and a city councilman are pressuring a Bronx hospital to keep its promise by returning its labor and delivery unit.

Citing lack of senior staff doctors, the city Health and Hospitals Corp. moved the unit from North Central Bronx Hospital in Norwood to Jacobi Medical Center on Pelham Parkway last August.

But the move proved short-lived because of complaints of overcrowding and longer travel distance. HHC then pledged to move the unit back by the end of this coming summer.

But that’s not good enough to members of the New York State Nurses Association, Health Care Union 1199 SEIU and local City Councilman Andy King, who demonstrated Tuesday, Feb. 25 outside NCBH.

They said they want the unit reopened by April 30.

That is when the state Department of Health could begin decertifying the maternity wing beds at NCBH, according to King.

“As long as the spotlight shines on them, they have to respond,” said King, whose northeast Bronx district adjoins NCBH territory.

Bronx moms deserve the unit to reopen as soon as possible, argued Jill Furillo, executive director of the New York State Nurses Association.

“A soon-to-be mother with a complicated pregnancy doesn’t deserve a long commute to her doctor, and to wait in long lines and in overcrowded rooms,” said Furillo. “She deserves the care that NYSNA nurses, here at this hospital are ready to give.”

Since NCBH’s labor and delivery services were shut down, Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, president of NYSNA and a nurse at the Montefiore emergency room around the corner, said that her emergency room has dealt with an increased number of precipitous births, or births that progress quickly.

“Women who should be delivering in a nice labor and delivery setting that they’re accustomed to are now delivering in the emergency room next door because there is no other labor and delivery services in this region,” she said. “We are not going to wait past April 30th. This community cannot tolerate it.”

But citing the time requirements of staffing the unit, John Doyle, spokesman for the North Bronx Health Network which covers NCBH and Jacobi, said the materinity unit should be able to reopen by the end of the summer.

He said the hospital has applied to the state Department of Health for an extension of the April 30 deadline.

“Patient safety remains our Number One priority, and it’s the reason we suspended labor and delivery services at North Central Bronx Hospital when we faced significant staff shortages,” Doyle said in a statement.

He said the network committed in November to re-establishing the service. With the December appointment of Dr. Michael Zinaman as the new chairman of the OB-GYN service, “we began the process of recruiting senior level providers.”

“We’re still confident,” he said, “that by the end of summer we should have labor and delivery services open at North Central Bronx Hospital.”

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at (718) 742–3383. E-mail her at jwilliams@cnglocal.com.

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