But local officials contend more could be done to preserve birthing service
By Ed Nadolski
Editor in Chief
The decision to close the birthing center at Aurora Memorial Hospital of Burlington is based on best practices and is done with a long-term sustainable vision for health care in the community, an Aurora Health Care official said Tuesday.
“We have a responsibility to manage local health care dollars in a manner that’s best for the community’s health,” Beeson said. “Our responsibility is to manage resources in a sustainable way.”
Beeson made his comments the same day Burlington Mayor Bob Miller put the finishing touches on a letter to Vicki Lewis, president of Aurora Memorial Hospital of Burlington, seeking final clarification on Aurora’s decision.
“In a sense, I’m asking: ‘Please change your mind or confirm your decision,’” Miller said of his letter. “And if it’s the latter, I’ll have no choice but to start opening negotiations with other health care providers.”
OB is ‘critical’ to city
In the letter, Miller restates his contention that the obstetrics department is an essential part of a community hospital and the ability of the Burlington area to attract young families will suffer without it.
“The continued existence of a birthing center in Burlington is critical to continued good health care in our community,” Miller wrote.
Aurora is the city’s largest employer with roughly 600 employees and as such Miller said he will continue to work in good faith with the area’s dominant health care provider regardless of its decision.
“At the same time, however, it will then be important for the City of Burlington to work with other health care organizations to continue to provide, at the very least, a birthing service in Burlington.”
Beeson said Tuesday that he hasn’t heard anything on the corporate level that would indicate Aurora plans to change its decision to close the birthing center in Burlington as of July 1 and refer all births to Aurora Lakeland Medical Center near Elkhorn.
He stressed, however, that all other women’s health services – including pre- and post-natal care will continue to be provided locally through Aurora Burlington Clinic.
Word got out last November that Aurora planned to close the birthing center.
With just 270 births in 2012, Memorial Hospital is well below its past numbers of 500-600 births a year and below what most hospitals consider sustainable, Aurora officials have said.
But reaction from the community has been largely negative – ranging from those who blame Aurora for siphoning off births from Burlington by building a hospital in western Kenosha, to those who believe the decision was made based on profit, not community desires.
Beeson said community health care continues to change and evolve into a more regional model where certain services are no longer offered at all hospitals.
He pointed out that Burlington offers cardiac catheterization services that Aurora’s Kenosha hospital does not.
“It comes down to managing the communities’ health care dollars,” he said.
Beeson also used Aurora St. Luke’s in Milwaukee and Aurora Hartford Medical Center as examples of hospitals that don’t have birthing centers.
And while residents of those communities don’t have local access to that specific service, through Aurora’s integrated system local people have regional access to equipment and physicians that aren’t normally available at a community hospital.
“That’s the power of the integrated system,” Beeson said.
Local officials, however, said they’d prefer to retain what has traditionally been the most basic of community hospital services – labor and delivery.
Miller said he believes Aurora could have done a better job of reinvesting local hospital profits to recruit obstetricians that would build and sustain birthing services here.
“This component part of our community health care needs is just to important to do otherwise,” he said.