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Aug 22 Healthcare Workers Condemn Laurel Hospital Closure, Call for Transparency and Accountability

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Saturday, August 22, 2015
Contact: Rae Rawls Dunnaville, 443-800-1551,rae.dunnaville@1199.org

Laurel Regional Hospital Announces Layoffs and Impending Shutdown of Maternity Department

Healthcare Union Condemns Closure, Calling for Transparency and Accountability in Execution of Laurel Transition Plan

LAUREL, MD - Healthcare workers at Laurel Regional Hospital's Maternal and Child Health department learned of imminent layoffs during a meeting yesterday between management and staff. During the tense meeting, nurses and service/maintenance workers were advised that the department is slated to close permanently on October 10, 2015.

The department closure will affect the unit's 32 labor and delivery nurses and 6 service/maintenance workers; all represented by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. According to hospital management, only 6 vacant positions exist for labor and delivery nurses throughout the Dimensions system. The union has yet to be informed of vacancies for the service and maintenance positions.

Hospital management announced that the closure will occur in stages. By October 7, maternity patients arriving at the hospital will be assessed in the emergency room and sent to Prince George's Hospital via EMS for further care. Beginning October 9, maternity patients will no longer be accepted at Laurel Hospital.

The maternity unit closure is the first step in a plan by Dimensions Healthcare System to drastically downsize and ultimately replace Laurel Regional Hospital. The proposal-announced in late July to the surprise of local elected officials, Laurel residents, and hospital staff-will eliminate most of the hospital's services and all but 30 medical/surgical beds, transforming the full-service hospital to an ambulatory care center which would ultimately be replaced with a brand new facility. The new facility, estimated to cost taxpayers $24 million, has yet to be approved by the state or county government.

Laurel residents and community groups have been vocal in their opposition to Dimensions' proposal. At a packed public forum on August 10 called by Mayor Craig Moe, dozens of residents testified on the need for a functional, full-service hospital in Laurel. The nearest hospitals are at least 10 miles away-which could seem like an eternity in an emergency situation.

"When I had my five children, Laurel Hospital wasn't here," said resident Linda Pohland. "Traffic now is worse than it used to be. If you were having a baby, it might be too far to give birth. I've lived without a hospital here, and I've lived with one here. Living with one is better."

Union representatives and elected officials contend that the hospital's lack of transparency during the planning and execution of the transition plan has reflected poorly on Dimensions, and vow to fight for accountability as they work in coalition with community allies to keep a full-service medical facility in the Laurel community.

"We understand that healthcare is changing, and we're not against that," said 1199SEIU Vice President Jennifer Epps. "What we don't appreciate is being kept in the dark about decisions that take good jobs and good healthcare out of the community with no plans to replace or improve them."

State Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk also expressed her frustration with the announcement. "I am disappointed at Dimensions for making this decision without consulting the community," she said. "Expectant mothers need accessible maternity care, and Laurel needs a full service hospital."

The caregivers being pushed out have also expressed concern--not only about their own futures, but about the health outcomes of the women and babies they've dedicated their careers to.

"This isn't fair to anyone," said Andrea Nagel, a labor and delivery nurse who has worked at the hospital for 16 years. "Obviously we're all worried about how we're going to find new jobs. But what about pregnant women who were expecting to give birth here after we shut down? Where are the pregnant women with little or no prenatal care going to deliver? There are a lot of unanswered questions."

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With over 400,000 caregivers, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. Almost 10,000 caregivers in Maryland and D.C. are united in 1199SEIU. Together, they work to ensure quality care and quality jobs for all.
 
1199SEIU-UHWE | Maryland/DC
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Baltimore, MD