Nurses, leaders mourn closure of Tobey’s maternity ward

Dec 10, 2019

Holding flickering battery-powered candles, more than twenty people gathered on the sidewalk across from Tobey Hospital on Tuesday to mourn the impending closure of the maternity ward on December 31.

The protestors, including maternity nurses, political candidates, union members, and faith leaders, expressed sorrow at the loss of the ward, which many described as a family.

“We have a culture of caring and respect for all mothers and babies and fathers,” said Joyce Hyslip-Ikkela, who has been a nurse in the ward for more than 20 years. Hyslip-Ikkela said that individualized care contributes to the ward’s outcomes, with a low c-section rate and a high percentage of mothers exclusively breastfeeding their babies.

While the advocates say that the ward is vital for the town of Wareham, Tobey also draws mothers from the Outer Cape, Boston, Rhode Island, and even Israel.

Senator Marc Pacheco spoke in support of the nurses. He has filed legislation that would make it harder for hospitals to end services that the Department of Public Health has deemed essential. The department ruled that the ward was essential, but currently has no authority to force the hospital to keep it open.

“If services are essential, that means they should be there,” Pacheco said. “We’ve seen this happen far too often.”

Deacon Pamela Rose is one of ten siblings, all of whom were born at Tobey. She had her four children there, and her seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild were all born at Tobey.

“You got the best care,” Rose said. “You were never just a number.”

Rose pointed out that many people in Wareham don’t own a car, making transportation to other hospitals difficult.

Southcoast Health said the decision was made due to the low number of births at Tobey and because the maternity unit at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford is being expanded.