EORH to deliver babies again

MARTINS FERRY — East Ohio Regional Hospital plans to reopen its obstetrics department in early 2018, two years after its previous birthing facility closed.

Bernie Albertini, chief administrative officer at EORH, said Tuesday the BirthPlace will return to its previous location by “the first quarter of next year at the latest.” While there is no definite timeframe for the reopening, it will occur as soon as the hospital can recruit obstetrician/gynecologists to work in the department, he said.

EORH was the only hospital in Belmont County that delivered babies at the time of the BirthPlace’s closure. The county’s other two hospitals — Barnesville and Belmont Community in Bellaire — don’t have obstetrics departments.

Regarding resumption of obstetrical services, Albertini said, “We think it’s a core piece of our business. … It’s very exciting for us. We’re excited to bring that service line back to the county.”

To accommodate the changes, the hospital’s sleep lab, which opened in March 2016, will be relocated to the third floor of EORH’s north building by the end of this month. Albertini said, “We will move the sleep lab, which will vacate the BirthPlace. That area is still like the day we moved out.”

Albertini said EORH will have to complete the Ohio Department of Health’s licensing process for the birthing center.

“They (state authorities) will do a survey. It’s just a formality,” he said.

The hospital wants to hire two or more obstetrician/gynecologists for the BirthPlace, he said, adding, “We are actively recruiting.”

EORH’s BirthPlace closed after obstetrical services were consolidated at Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling. A combined obstetrics unit opened at OVMC in October 2015.

On Monday, Dr. George Cholak, Belmont County health commissioner, told the board of health that EORH plans to reopen the BirthPlace.

Health board member Dr. Renato DelaCruz, who is a practicing physician, said the EORH medical staff asked the hospital’s new owner, Alecto Healthcare Services, to bring back the obstetrics department. Albertini said the hospital’s physicians were excited about the development.

Alecto, based in Irvine, Calif., completed its purchase of EORH and OVMC on May 31. Previously, the two hospitals were owned by Ohio Valley Health Services and Education Corp.

The number of births in the county dropped dramatically after the BirthPlace’s closure. Currently, the only births in the county occur at home or in other non-hospital settings.

The Belmont County Health Department’s vital statistics section recorded 303 births in 2014. Cholak said the vital statistics report for 2015 — the final year of operation for EORH’s BirthPlace –listed 206 babies born in the county, with 15 home births in 2015.

However, the numbers plunged in 2016, when only 14 births occurred in the county. This year, only 10 babies have been born in Belmont County, as of Aug. 31. Cholak said three births were recorded in August, making it the highest number for any month in 2017 to date.

At EORH’s BirthPlace, an expectant mother could remain in the same room through labor, delivery and post-partum care. That concept was part of the 2015 renovation plan at OVMC. EORH received certification as a Baby-Friendly USA-designated facility in October 2014, a year before the BirthPlace closed.

In Ohio County, both Wheeling Hospital and OVMC maintain obstetrics departments.