ELLWOOD CITY (KDKA) — Some Lawrence County residents are upset with the decision to close Ellwood City Hospital’s obstetrics department. Forty-four hospitals statewide have already done the same thing.

“I think it would be a travesty to this community to eliminate the OB department,” said Sharon Tilia, the head nurse in the obstetrics department.

The decision, made last month to close the unit, has left many feeling blindsided.

Bobbi Morton is expecting her fifth baby in October. She’s hoping Ellwood City’s maternity ward will be there for her.

“My labors, especially after this many, go pretty fast,” said Morton. “Being able to go close to home, not travel 30 minutes away, insures me that my baby’s going to be born in a hospital, not in a car.

Morton and Joanna McAfee gathered more then 800-like-minded signatures on a petition.

“I would like the hospital board to reconsider its decision,” said McAfee.

Dr. Joseph Ciocca, who’s been delivering babies there for a dozen years, believes keeping it local has real advantages.

“In this area, I think people really appreciate the fact they can come to a close hospital, and the care that we give, I think, is characteristic of a small community hospital,” said Dr. Ciocca, an obstetrician.

But the entire 70-bed hospital has been struggling financially for a while, and closing obstetrics means $200,000 in savings annually.

“We want that hospital to continue to be in this community, and in order to do that, we have to make some tough choices,” said Christy Spoa, the chairman of Ellwood City.

According to the Pennsylvania Health and Hospital System Association, many other hospitals are facing similar tough decisions.

They cite the cost of medical liability insurance premiums doubling in a decade, and the fact that half of the births in the state are covered by Medicaid and not reimbursed much.

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