Central Mass. Community Upset Over Hospital Pediatric Unit Closing

Leominster and Fitchburg are diverse communities with many residents finding comfort in an inpatient pediatric unit in their backyard.

"I knew these nurses and doctors in this pediatric ward are trained to handle infants newborns and all the way up to young adults," said Briana Peña, the mother of a child who has been treated at UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital for a respiratory complication. "They are trained in that so I knew they knew what to look for in my 2-year-old."

But that convenience will soon come to an end for families that frequent the hospital. Due to a $14 million operating loss and state and federal budget cuts, the hospital has officially filed paperwork to close several units, including the inpatient pediatric services.

"We are outraged as a community. It’s scary we won’t have access and care that we need for our children right in our backyard," Peña said. "Fitchburg and Leominster are large communities and if we can’t get care for our kids here and we have to travel 40 minutes, that’s sad."

"This is due in large part to a loss in volume and decreased payment from the Medicaid program," the hospital said in a statement. "In order for our hospitals to survive in this increasingly challenging healthcare environment, we must respond to the demands of state policymakers and the public – do everything possible to improve quality and reduce our costs."

The hospital says they provide the most service for the underinsured and uninsured in central Massachusetts.

However, a nurse that's been working at UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital for 32 years says it's the facility's fault fewer people are using the pediatric unit.

"They systemically have been referring patients out of our hospital to other facilities for years just to add to their self-fulfilling prophecy,” Natalie Pereira said.

The hospital says details about layoffs in the pediatric unit will be relayed in July.

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