North Georgia women who expect to deliver their babies at Hutcheson Medical Center will have to go elsewhere by the end of this year. We first told you Wednesday about the hospital closing its labor and delivery services.
Hutcheson Medical Center’s interim CEO Farrell Hayes says by suspending the services, the hospital will save $2 million each year. Hospital officials say the medical center is currently $60 million in debt.
Jessica Teeters can't wait to meet her baby girl Madeline. She's due on New Year’s Day. But, Teeters hopes Madeline will come sooner.
"I want to have her at Hutcheson because it's closer and so I won't have to change hospitals, and I'm already planned, and I know where to go there," says Jessica Teeters.
If not, she'll be like many - who will have to drive several miles to another hospital. We did the math to find out distance of the closest hospitals from Hutcheson.
Park Ridge East in East Ridge is 6-miles away from Hutcheson. In Chattanooga, Erlanger Hospital is 13 miles away and Erlanger East is 10-miles away. Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton is 25-miles away.
"It's a little far; it's out of the way. I live in Flintstone so it's like driving 30-minutes to Chattanooga," says Jessica Teeters.
Hospital officials say Chattanooga hospitals deliver 60% of all babies born in Walker, Dade and Catoosa counties. Hutcheson loses $2 million dollars a year because of the steady drop in births.
"The fact is, by keeping labor and delivery opening, we'd have to subsidize it out the rest of the hospital, and we're just not strong enough to do that," says Hutcheson Medical Center interim CEO Farrell Hayes.
In all, 37 employees will be affected. Hayes say 12 employees will likely be offered other jobs within the hospital. The other 25 will get severance pay.
To save money, the hospital looks to reallocate resources.
"We're going to focus on the medical surgeon side of our hospital, the cancer part of our hospital and those areas that we have enough volume to make sense economically," says Hayes.
The hospital does still have a certificate that would allow it to resume services within the next year.
"If we don't get back in the business within one year, then we'll have to reapply for C-O-N in the future to get back in the business," says Hayes.
The hospital staff is calling around, making sure all expectant moms are aware of these changes. Officials say it's all to help the hospital gain profits.
By Jerry Askin