Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital in Murphy has announced that it will be closing its Labor and Delivery services the first week of December. The OB/GYN practice will then close on December 31.
“Throughout the United States, rural and community hospitals have seen a sharp decline in these service areas as more women are choosing larger systems for their OB/GYN care or at a point in their life when they no longer need obstetrical services,” says Mark Kimball, CEO of EWCH, in a press release. “Our region has seen this same shift in demographics and the choices women make over the course of many years.”
Today’s announcement means that Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva is the furthest west labor and delivery unit in the North Carolina. The hospital saw a 70 percent increase in patients after Angel Medical Center in Franklin closed L&D services in 2017. Harris expanded their labor and delivery unit in 2018.
Erlanger recommends that local patients seek out regional labor, delivery and obstetrics at Harris or at Erlanger hospitals in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Patients in Murphy are about 65 miles from Sylva and about 80 miles from the Chattanooga locations.
“We understand how much our hospital means to our employees and to the many people born here and who live in this region,” says Kimball in a press release. “We will work with our staff to offer other job opportunities during this transition and want the surrounding communities to know we are here to care for their residents.”
Erlanger explained that general women’s health and screening services will continue to be available at its primary care offices.