Leamington District Memorial Hospital has received funding to recruit and retain obstetricians/gynecologists for its obstetrics unit, which was slated to lose its only doctor later this year.
Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Eric Hoskins issued a statement Friday announcing $1.3 million in annual funding to the hospital to bring on three doctors for the unit.
“Small towns face unique challenges,” said Hoskins. “Providing access to high-quality birthing services is important for communities like Leamington in order to attract and retain young and growing families.”
The OB unit was facing closure less than two years ago, but community groups rallied to have the decision reversed. An expert panel was formed September 2014 to provide recommendations to the ministry on how birthing services can be provided to residents of Essex County who rely on the Leamington hospital.
The panel decided in June the obstetrics unit should continue and also integrate midwifery services.
However, one of the two obstetricians at LDMH left her job last year and the remaining doctor plans to move to Windsor Regional Hospital in June.
Kimberly DeYong, one of the leaders of the Save OB Leamington group, said having three doctors in the unit will bring security to patients in the area.
“We are very pleased that the minister of health recognized the importance of rural healthcare for women and babies,” said DeYong, the chair of the Essex County Health Coalition. “It will bring stability to the unit and hopefully we’ll be able to attract and retain the professionals that are needed to run the unit.”
It’s important the funding is being provided annually because OB units are being lost in other parts of the country, said DeYong.
“There’s many small rural hospitals facing this right now because the obstetrics are a lot harder to manage efficiently,” she said. “Women have the babies when they have them, not when they’re scheduled for it.”
DeYong said she hopes the announcement leads to similar investments across Ontario.
LDMH CEO Terry Shields could not be reached for comment this week.