- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) - Two Natchez hospitals are combining their labor and delivery operations as part of a long-term consolidation strategy.

The consolidation will be effective March 2.

Labor and delivery services for Natchez Regional Medical Center will be relocated to Natchez Community Hospital while the hospitals - which are owned by the same parent company - wait for state approval for a certificate of need that will allow for an extensive renovation of NRMC’s facilities.

Mississippi requires a CON in a process designed to avoid duplication of health care services and control costs.

“As we make the decision to consolidate the two units, it will allow us to prepare the unit at Regional to be expanded and renovated to house the permanent home of our (obstetrical) services once the (certificate of need) is approved and final consolidation of the hospital is complete,” said NRMC and NCH Chief Executive Officer Eric Robinson.

“To do this needed work while mothers were delivering their newborns in the same area would be a distracting burden to such a joyful occasion,” he said.

Robinson said no one would lose a job because of the labor and delivery consolidation.

“There are not going to be any job changes as a result of that,” he said. “We are going to have one larger department full of tenured nursing staff, and it should be even better with them working as one.”

As the hospitals move toward the March 2 deadline, Robinson said they will work with local doctors and other health care providers to ensure expectant mothers are aware of the change.

The labor and delivery consolidation should not impact other operations at the two hospitals, which are still operating as otherwise independent units. Other women’s services will still be available at both hospitals during the labor and delivery consolidation period.

“This plan was made with the doctors behind it, with the director of obstetrics, the chief nursing officer and others, and they have a good plan for how they will accommodate the volume, and it shouldn’t be problematic,” Robinson said.

NCH Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology Laura Bruce said she looks forward to the two departments working together.

“This transition means expectant parents will have access to more resources in one convenient location,” she said.

Robinson said the hospitals do not yet have a long-term plan for what will be done with the NCH campus after the full consolidation of both hospitals at the NRMC campus is completed.

“All of the effort right now is focused on what we can do to get these two facilities together,” Robinson said. “We are trying to be respectful of that (certificate of need) process, and there are no real timelines because we are waiting to hear back from the state on these larger projects.”

Robinson said the hospital is trying to manage some of its consolidation staffing concerns through attrition.

“When someone leaves, if we can hold onto that spot knowing that down the road we are coming together, we will,” he said.

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Information from: The Natchez Democrat, https://www.natchezdemocrat.com/

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