With Merger Stalled, Jameson to Stop Delivering Babies

NEW CASTLE, Pa. – Jameson Hospital will stop delivering babies Sept. 1, a decision made amid “uncertainty of our future merger with UPMC,” says its president and CEO, Doug Danko, and the resulting loss of one of its two remaining obstetricians.

Jameson Health System announced last Sept. 16 its intent to merge with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. At that time, officials estimated the merger would be consummated early this year.

Instead, it remains stalled by the office of the Pennsylvania attorney general, which is reportedly reviewing how such a consolidation would impact health-care prices for residents of Lawrence and Mercer counties.

Jameson operates the only hospital in Lawrence County. In Mercer County, UPMC operates hospitals in Greenville and Farrell. The health system’s merger agreement included UPMC’s commitment to invest the $70 to $80 million to continue hospital services in Lawrence County, pay off debt, maintain aging facilities, and recruit new and needed physicians.

In 2014, Jameson Health System had total operating expenses of $110 million in compared to net patient revenue of $105 million. Its project deficit this year is $3 million, according to published reports.

On May 4 Jameson Health System says the commonwealth’s failure to approve the merger would result in reducing operations at its south campus, the former St. Francis Hospital, to a weekday daytime outpatient center from a 24/7 site. That conversion is expected to take place in about two weeks.

In fiscal 2014, 295 babies were delivered at Jameson Hospital, according to published reports.

Today, in announcing the decision by Jameson’s board of trustees to discontinue childbirth services, Danko said two obstetricians had “admirably maintained” Jameson’s obstetrics program for more than nine months.

“The uncertainty of our future merger with UPMC has led a local independent obstetrician to make a difficult decision to move her practice to another hospital where the manpower and shared call obligations provide a better opportunity for her,” the CEO said. “Our efforts to recruit additional OB-GYN doctors into our community during these uncertain times have not been successful; and as a result, obstetrical delivery services can no longer be sustained.”

Jameson’s announcement included a statement from Dr. Kelly Palumbo, who said she made the “heartbreaking decision” to withdraw her obstetrics privileges at the hospital “with much angst.”

Palumbo said 18 months ago five physicians shared obstetrics responsibilities at the hospital. With retirements and physicians leaving the area, she and Dr. Amy Shannon “agreed to manage the entirety of the needs of the community with the assistance of weekend locum tenens [temporary obstetrics physicians] services. This was meant to be a temporary solution with Jameson’s merger with a larger health system deemed eminent. However, there seems to be no end in sight also putting Jameson in a very poor, almost unfair, position to recruit any new OB physicians.”

Palumbo said she would keep her office practice in New Castle. She did not identify which hospital she would affiliate with; only that it is “20 miles away” from New Castle.

“Should OB emergencies present to the emergency department, Jameson’s team will assess, provide emergency care, and transfer appropriately,” the hospital said.

“Pregnant patients who are delivering after Sept. 1 will be appropriately notified and rapid transport agreements will be formalized with regional providers of obstetrical services to meet the needs of patients,” added Barbara Bernardi, nurse executive. “Emergency department physicians and care teams will receive updated training in obstetrical and maternity services. The care transition of obstetrical patients will be one of the hospital’s highest priorities during this time.”

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