Hospitals & Facilities

Long Island maternity ward at St. Catherine of Siena set to close

The hospital looks to establish contingency plans as its two contracted ob-gyns depart.
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Catholic Health

· 3 min read

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The maternity ward at St. Catherine of Siena Hospital in Smithtown, New York, has operated since 1966 and delivers about 500 babies every year. On February 1, the Long Island maternity ward is set to effectively close when its two contracted ob-gyns leave—meaning that residents who rely on these services will have to travel farther for care.

The ob-gyns, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, are employed through a Long Island-based medical group called Square Care Medical Group. Their contract, according to Square Care President Henry Prince, stipulates that they can’t work for a competitor—including directly for the Catholic hospital where they’ve been employed as contractors.

Their departure puts St. Catherine in a bind: The hospital can’t operate its maternity ward without ob-gyns, but executives can’t shut it down entirely until the state approves an application for closure—paperwork the state has yet to receive, according to Danielle De Souza, a spokesperson for the New York State Department of Health.

Kate Malenczak, a spokesperson for St. Catherine’s parent company, Catholic Health, said the hospital will keep the remaining maternity ward staff in their roles after February 1 and move unplanned deliveries to the emergency department.

The hospital will also “work with the state to ensure we meet appropriate regulations regarding staffing and emergency delivery coverage going forward,” she wrote in an email.

Despite contingency plans, nurses like Marion Ciecirski, who’s worked as a nurse in St. Catherine’s maternity ward for two decades, fear the worst.

“They’ve been letting it die a slow death,” Ciecirski told Healthcare Brew.

Malenczak, however, said that hospital leadership attempted to negotiate directly with the ob-gyns but couldn’t reach an agreement.

“Despite our best and continuing efforts to find alternative options for coverage, as of February 1, there will be no ob-gyn physicians at the hospital to provide maternity services,” she added.

St. Catherine is at least the third hospital in New York that may lose some birthing services, joining NewYork–Presbyterian Allen Hospital in Manhattan and Burdett Birth Center of Samaritan Hospital in Troy.

“Every time there’s a maternity closure, it’s pretty devastating,” Elizabeth Benjamin, VP of health initiatives at Community Service Society, a group that advocates on behalf of lower-income New York residents and immigrants, told Healthcare Brew. “It’s just not tenable to have all these maternity closures.”

For St. Catherine patients, the three nearest delivery units are all a 30-minute drive away. To the south and east, respectively, are Good Samaritan University Hospital and St. Charles Hospital—both part of the same Catholic Health system as St. Catherine—while Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital lies to the west.

“That’s a life-or-death situation, depending on the emergency,” Cierciski said.

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Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.