Miller will work to accommodate competitors to fill void left by closing of O.B. department
By Ed Nadolski
Editor in Chief
Burlington Mayor Bob Miller said Tuesday he is inclined to move forward in discussions with alternative health care providers after a planned meeting with a local Aurora Health Care official never materialized this week.
Miller said he was scheduled to meet with Vicki Lewis, president of Aurora’s Memorial Hospital of Burlington and Lakeland Medical Center near Elkhorn early Tuesday morning to discuss Aurora’s decision to close the obstetrics department at the Burlington hospital on July 1.
Miller said he hadn’t heard from Lewis as of late Tuesday morning, but it was quite possible she was dealing with the fallout of an incident late Monday at Lakeland Medical Center in which a sheriff’s deputy shot and killed an inmate who attempted to escape while undergoing tests at the hospital (see separate story).
A message left at Lewis’ office Tuesday afternoon was not returned prior to deadline for this story.
Miller reiterated Tuesday that he believes there is little Lewis or local administrators can do to reverse the decision to close the birthing center in Burlington and transfer all deliveries to Lakeland this summer.
“In a way, I feel bad for her (Lewis) because she’s got to stand up and take the heat for a decision that’s essentially been made at the corporate level,” Miller said. “But by the same token, it’s a major impact for the city and I don’t think Aurora is handling it the best it can.”
Shortly after learning of the decision the mayor wrote to Aurora’s corporate head asking him to reconsider the decision. He’s maintained since then that Burlington deserves a full-service community hospital that continues to deliver babies.
The service, he said, is key to the city remaining an attractive residential destination for young couples and families.
Miller said he is composing a memo to members of the City Council to “bring them up to speed” on the issue. He also said he will move forward with discussions to accommodate other health care providers who are willing to step in and fill the void.
Aurora remains the city’s largest employer with more than 600 health care professionals and other workers at Memorial Hospital and the adjacent Burlington Clinic.
Lewis has said the decision to close the O.B. department was based on numbers. Essentially, she said, the number of births last year at the Burlington hospital were too low to sustain the business and care model needed to successfully staff the department.
She said Burlington-based obstetricians will continue to see patients and provide other women’s health services in Burlington. However, they will have to perform all deliveries at Lakeland.
That decision has resulted in some outcry among local residents who contend the rural landscape between the Burlington and Elkhorn hospitals is not conducive to travel by expectant parents.
Lewis has said she is focusing on accentuating some of the other services provided in Burlington to help ensure the hospital and the city’s profile do not suffer as a result of the decision.
Other Aurora officials likened Burlington’s situation to Aurora St. Luke’s Hospital in Milwaukee, which does not have an obstetrics department, but is one of the most respected heart hospitals in the state.