LEOMINSTER, Mass. - Despite public protest, and formal requests from the department of public health and Gov. Maura Healey’s office, the birthing center at UMass Memorial Health's Leominster hospital closed on Saturday.

What You Need To Know

  • The Leominster birthing center officially closed this past weekend

  • Gov. Maura Healey announced a formal review of all maternal health access in the state

  • The Leominster area now considered a "maternal health desert" by March of Dimes

  • The Department of Public Health promises oversight of UMass Memorial Health's plan to ensure patient care

According to the March of Dimes, a nonprofit dedicated to maternal health, the center's closure makes the area a maternity care desert, not only creating an issue of time and distance for patients to get to a proper health care facility, but also putting stress on the providers who now have more patients to care for.

“The demand on that nearest service providers increases in ways that is much more than just longer driving distance for families,” said Chloe Schwartz, director of maternal health for March of Dimes Massachusetts. “It means that there are fewer resources and staff to help those families when they come in.”

When UMass Memorial Health decided to proceed with this birthing center closure, Healey’s office announced a formal review of all maternal health care access across the state and mandated a special review of Northern Worcester County.  

Although this doesn’t fix the problem, Schwartz said that this will provide some hard to argue data that can help in the future.

State Rep. Natalie Higgins, D-Leominster, said the community is absolutely devastated that this was able to happen. She said that any audit of maternal care access will prove that those services were absolutely essential.

“We’re Massachusetts, I think that we presume that we’re better and we put ourselves out to the rest of the country as a reproductive health care champion,” Higgins said. “We have to make sure that we actually have that service across the state and not just in the largest urban areas.”

UMass Memorial Health has put together a plan to ensure that the patients who now need to change their care plans will have access to the Worcester campus. The state's Department of Public Health says they are going to monitor the plan to ensure that it is properly working.