Bayfront Health Seven Rivers in Crystal River is ending obstetrical and newborn services and will close its labor and delivery unit, effective 11:59 pm on February 11, 2022.
After this date, the 128-bed hospital will no longer provide inpatient labor and delivery services, according to a hospital news release.
“This has been a very difficult decision. However, fewer births are occurring at Bayfront Health Seven Rivers and this coincides with the increasing average age of our population,” said hospital CEO, Linda Stockton.
In 2009, there were 1,091 births to women who were Citrus County residents, according to Florida HealthCharts, which tracks Florida health trends for the Florida Department of Health.
About 80% of those babies were born in Citrus County and 20% of expectant Citrus County mothers went elsewhere to deliver.
In 2019, that number fell to 1,029, and reflected a years-long trend of fewer births here.
Stockton said Seven Rivers experienced an even steeper decline.
From 2015-2020 Bayfront Health Seven Rivers experienced a 27% decrease in births and even fewer are projected this year, she said.
In 2019, Seven Rivers delivered about 300 babies annually. Citrus Memorial delivered about 500.
Crystal River Mayor Joe Meek said he is saddened by the closure but understands the reasoning behind it.
“While I’m disappointed, obviously it has been a very important service in Crystal River, I understand it’s a business decision and I respect that,” Meek told the Chronicle.
Meek said that with the declining births and another hospital in the county that can provide more delivery services, closing that service line at Seven Rivers was understandable.
That will leave county residents with only one Citrus County hospital remaining to deliver babies: Citrus Memorial Hospital in Inverness, which has invested heavily in its delivery services.
In 2019 Citrus memorial invested $1.8 million in its maternity ward and its hire of four additional OB/GYN physicians.
Citrus Memorial spokeswoman Katie Myers said her hospital can increase its maternity capacity.
“In 2020 our Women and Baby Center saw 481 births. There is absolutely room to grow and we’re more than happy to continue providing both labor and delivery care and childbirth education for our community,” she said.
Stockton said expectant mothers still have Bayfront Health options.
She said expectant mothers can still receive childbirth services at Bayfront Health Spring Hill located in Spring Hill.
She said that the hospital staff will work with local obstetricians on the medical staff to support an orderly transition of their patients’ nonemergent deliveries to another hospital.
Gynecological services and surgery will continue to be provided at Bayfront Health Seven Rivers, Stockton said.
She said the hospital will continue to focus on the services most needed here.
“We will continue applying our resources to enhance and expand the clinical services that are increasingly needed by our aging population such as orthopedic surgery, spine surgery, vascular surgery, general surgery and cardiac services,” Stockton said.
Nurses and personnel who staff the OB unit will have the opportunity to transfer into other open positions at Bayfront Health Seven Rivers, she said.