LACONIA — Executives at LRGHealthcare confirmed Tuesday that Lakes Region General Hospital’s maternity ward is among areas under review that may be shut down in order for the health care facility to thrive.
LGRHealthcare President and CEO Kevin W. Donovan stressed no final decisions have been made but he said it was necessary to give an update on the hospital’s challenging finances.
“LRGHealthcare closed out fiscal year 2017 with a modest surplus from operations; however fiscal year 2018 has, to this point, not performed as well as anticipated,” Donovan said. “There is no single reason for this performance. Rather, it is a combination of factors. ...”
The Laconia-based hospital has gone through many changes over the past four years in order to deal with upheaval in health care markets — and more are likely in the future, the CEO warned.
“LRGHealthcare will likely need to determine actions to cut expenses and/or increase revenue. Therefore we need to look hard at the services we provide and whether they can be done more efficiently,” Donovan said.
“It might also mean deciding there are certain things we just cannot do anymore. We would not be doing our job if we did not consider all options.”
Donovan said the maternity department known as Family Birthplace is under review due to declining birth rates, poor reimbursement from the federal/state Medicaid insurance plan for low-income and disabled families, and the difficulty in finding and keeping providers who can cover this service.
A growing percentage of births at LRGH are to mothers on Medicaid. The reimbursement rate under this program in New Hampshire is among the lowest in the country.
Smaller hospitals have to rely on on-call providers to deliver babies and offer other obstetric services.
“It is a growing problem across the state for lower volume hospitals,” said Sandra Marshall, LRGH’s director of public relations.
“In smaller organizations (those with less than 400 births per year), it is not justified to have several providers, making the providers we have to be required to take a call every three or four nights.”
Along with the birthing center, LRGH offers childbirth classes, a breastfeeding support group, instruction on CPR of infants, car seat safety checks and other programs. Across the country, larger hospitals are phasing out nurseries where children are kept together in a single room right after birth. Instead, they are transitioning to having the baby move in and live with the new mother full time until both are released from the hospital.
“To be clear, however, no decisions on the future of the Family Birthplace or any of our services have been made,” CEO Donovan said.
“As LRGHealthcare determines a course of action, staff, providers and community will be informed and involved.”
There is no timetable for any decision about changes in LRGH services, Marshall said.