Carthage concerned about hospital changes



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CARTHAGE, Mo. (AP) — Plans to close a birthing center at southwestern Missouri hospital and send patients about 16 miles away to Joplin to give birth are raising concerns about changes at the city-owned hospital since it was leased to Mercy Health System.

Mercy officials plan to close the Spradling Family Birthing Center at Mercy Hospital Carthage by the end of the year. Obstetrics services will be offered in Carthage, but women will be sent to Mercy Hospital Joplin to deliver, The Joplin Globe reported (http://bit.ly/YA2WGv ).

The city-owned hospital, formerly known as McCune Brooks Regional Hospital, was leased to Mercy Health Systems in early 2012. Mercy paid to expand bed space and services after Mercy's St. John's Regional Medical Center in Joplin was destroyed by the May 2011 tornado.

The closing of the birthing center makes some people nervous about plans for the Carthage hospital, Mayor Mike Harris said.

"I am concerned when you hear about cutbacks and reshuffling," he said. "I know Mercy has their big hospital under construction in Joplin, and I always felt like other things might be on the back burner until it's done. But I do want to see our hospital remain effective."

Mercy officials said they have added new services to the Carthage hospital since the lease arrangement began, such as an expanded infusion center, a pain clinic, cardiology consultations and bariatric surgery, plus the hiring of hospitalists, anesthesiologists and physicians.

Miriam Putnam, vice president of the McCune-Brooks Health Care Foundation, said the most recent change "is a financial decision" but the Carthage hospital will always be the best place to serve the town.

"It's just a change, but there is a lot of change in health care. What will be available in Joplin will complement what's available in Carthage," she said.

Those who work in deliveries at the Carthage hospital will shift to deliveries in Joplin, said Barbara Brightwell, executive director of patient care services at Mercy Carthage.

"We'll be providing the area's most advanced child birth facility, especially with the opening of the new neonatal intensive care unit in the new hospital," she said.

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Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Associated Press

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