Community pushback after Hastings hospital announces birth center closing

Regina Hospital in Hastings, Minnesota (FOX 9)

Expectant mothers in the east metro and healthcare workers got a chance to hear from leaders at Allina Health on Thursday night after learning Regina Hospital will be closing its birth center

In October, the health care system announced they would be ending labor and delivery services there on February 3, 2022, citing declining birth rates. The hospital had been averaging approximately 200 births each year. 

The closure means expectant mothers in the Hastings area will have to drive more than 20 minutes to downtown St. Paul to give birth at the Mother Baby Center at United Hospital. 

Thursday night's public hearing, held by the Minnesota Department of Health, is the first of its kind after a new law was passed this year that mandates public notice and a public hearing if a hospital proposes closing, reducing, or relocating services. 

Dr. Lesley Atwood, who works for the health care system, pushed back against her employer's decision, saying their delivery services haven't been promoted to the public effectively. 

"200 (births) is not a tiny number. When our river falls hospital closed their OBGYN unit, they were under 100," said Atwood, adding that "many of us feel the unit has been allowed to languish." 

But Allina Health says the decision to close the birth center is a done deal, and provided FOX 9 with the following statement: 

For years, United and Regina Hospitals have successfully collaborated to deliver care for our east region communities in many ways, including advancing cardiovascular, cancer, mental health, and general surgery services together. As part of our on-going commitment to provide a seamless care experience in the east metro, Allina Health will move all inpatient labor and delivery services to one location at the Mother Baby Center at United Hospital and Children’s Minnesota, effective Feb. 3, 2022.  All other prenatal, post-partum and women’s health needs and women’s health services will remain at Regina Hospital and Allina Health clinics in Hastings.

Regina Hospital’s Family Birth Center is an outstanding inpatient program with extraordinary team members who have delivered thousands of babies for more than 67 years. We are proud of the decades of exceptional care delivered at the Family Birth Center and are thankful for how well providers and staff have served the larger Hastings community.  

The landscape of obstetric services continues to evolve with contributing factors, such as women delaying their pregnancies to later in life and having smaller families. There has been a significant decline in birth rates at Regina for the past few years and the rates are projected to continue to decline. A stronger partnership among United and Regina Hospitals, allows us to provide a broad array of inpatient obstetric services such as, onsite perinatology, neonatology/NICU, and integrative medicine at United Hospital.

Allina Health is committed to strengthening care in the east metro. At Regina Hospital, Allina Health is investing in enhancing outpatient mental health and addiction services including adult intensive addiction, mental health partial hospitalization and day treatment programs. The investments we are making in the Hastings community will improve the experience for our patients and our community for years to come.   

In a written statement, the Minnesota Nurses Association objected to the consolidation, calling it a "cost-cutting move by Allina" that will "negatively impact patient care and the community."