A Change.org petition to keep the maternity department at Falmouth Hospital from closing had more than 2,500 supporters as of Thursday, April 9.
Katherine S. Kuusela of North Falmouth started the petition following Cape Cod Healthcare’s announcement last week that the maternity departments at Falmouth and Cape Cod hospitals are being consolidated, pending regulatory review, beginning this week. All deliveries will take place at Cape Cod Hospital.
Inpatient pediatric services are also being suspended at Falmouth Hospital, Michael K. Lauf, the organization’s president and chief executive officer, announced to media last week.
While the nine maternity and pediatric beds might be needed at Falmouth Hospital in the event of a surge in COVID-19 patients, Cape Cod Healthcare has been planning the consolidation of services for the past few years because of a potential physician shortage and a falling birthrate on Cape Cod in the past decade, Mr. Lauf said.
The organization is still considering what will happen with the jobs of maternity department staff—including 20 nurses—at Falmouth Hospital, he said.
The petition is meant to be signed and shared, but it is not encouraging supporters to donate funds, Ms. Kuusela wrote on the petition page.
“The Falmouth Hospital Birth Center is cherished as an incredible resource for families on Cape Cod. This petition is to demonstrate the impact of closing [the birth center], which so many families have relied on and so many more hoped to utilize in the future,” she wrote.
She went on to praise the work of the birthing center’s nurses and lactation consultants.
“It is heartbreaking to hear mothers will not have this incredible resource available in the birth center at Falmouth Hospital. The amazing birthing experience, continuity of care extending to lactation consultation, along with the breastfeeding support group needs to be locally accessible.
“As a new mother I would never have been able to pack up my newborn and make the trek to Hyannis for the breastfeeding support group meetings. The services I received are invaluable to me, and I hear these same sentiments echoed from every other new mother I have met in the group, and everyone I know who has delivered at Falmouth Hospital,” she wrote.
The petition urges Mr. Lauf “to consider alternative options for reviving the birth center after the COVID-19 emergency subsides.”
In response to the petition Mr. Lauf said, “I think it’s great that people care so much about the community and the services that are within it. It’s also our responsibility to make sure we can serve a community in a crisis, and we have to do that.”
Cape Cod Healthcare must make sure that there is appropriate physician coverage for any service it provides, Mr. Lauf said.
“We understand this is an emotional time and this is a great service, but we also have a responsibility to the community, to make sure that we are prepared, whether it be for a new baby coming into this world, or for COVID-19 patients that will need life-saving measures. I get the petition, I understand how people feel. I sympathize with them, but this decision needed to be made and I made it,” he said.
On the petition page Ms. Kuusela wrote, “I have ‘declared victory’ in this campaign for several reasons. [Mr. Lauf] provided public comment on the petition, and we have successfully drawn his attention to public demands for adequate local labor, delivery and postpartum care, including lactation consultation and support.”