Nurses rally for maternity ward

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Protesters rally for maternity ward

LINDA REILLY, Times Correspondent October 21, 2002

DARBY BOROUGH -- Young parents carrying infants joined with grandparents and young children in the candlelight vigil yesterday in front of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital as officials weigh the fate of its maternity andneo-natal services.

Carrying signs asking Lansdowne Avenue motorists to "honk if you were born here" about 100 people gathered to support the registered nurses assigned to the hospital's maternity ward.

Colleen Spaventa of Havertown, a Fitz nurse for 17 years who's worked in maternity the past 12 years, organized the rally to protest the potential closing of her department.

A week ago, when word circulated about the possibility of closing the 17-bed labor and delivery unit and 18-bed neonatal intensive care unit, Spaventa decided to take some action.

"I didn't want to just sit around," Spaventa said. "I wanted to bring it to the attention of the Catholic Church and their communities."

Hospital officials say no decision has been made; meetings on whether to close the maternity ward or the psychiatric unit are planned for this week.

Spaventa drafted a letter to Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua on behalf of the nursing and medical staff of Fitz's obstetrics departmentand forwarded a copy to area churches, expressing her concern about the status of the section.

"As you all know Mercy Health Systems is considering discontinuing the maternity services at Mercy Fitz to the community," Spaventa said to the crowd. "This hospital is the last standing Catholic delivery room in Delaware County and the surrounding Philadelphia area. To find a Catholic maternity unit a woman will have to travel to Langhorne, Norristown or Camden.

"The Catholic Church is pro-life. The presence of this hospital's maternity unit is absolutely essential in carrying out the church's teachings of life. How can we, as witnesses to Jesus, allow this to happen? We implore the church to become involved, to speak up on behalf of women and children, to speak up for the medical and nursing staff who work in this hospital carrying out the missions of Mercy on a daily basis," the letter states.

Spaventa read Mercy's mission and values statement and summarized a July 2002 letter from Fitz's Chief Executive Officer Michael Loscalzo pledging to preserve the unit at Mercy Fitzgerald.

Rally speakers included Paul McBlane, Gene Krueger, Mike McMonigle of the Pennsylvania Pro Life Federation and the Rev. Joseph Meehan of St. Eugene's Church of Primos.

"We expect the same courage and sacrifice from Fitz that we expect from a woman in a crisis pregnancy," McMonigle said.

Fitz spokeswoman Sister Donna Watto explained administrators are in the process of developing 2003 operating plans and fiscal budgets. "As responsible stewards of Mercy Health System resources, the Mercy Fitzgerald management team is reviewing all operations, services and programs, including the obstetrical program," Watto said in a prepared statement. "We have been exploring a number of options to help us sustain our mission."

According to Motto, every department is under scrutiny "to make sure we are as financially responsible as we can be. We are looking at everything so we can be here for the long term."

©The Daily Times 2002

Five hospitals within 20 min drive of this facility have closed Maternity units in past year. Only one left in West Philadelphia area is at Hospital of University of PA....hospitals and physicains are unable to afford costs.

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