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Northern hospital closure making life difficult

Date Posted: 2007-10-12

The decision to close Chuubu Hospitalís Obstetrics & Gynecology wing and the Newborn Intensive Care Unit in northern Okinawa last year is creating problems for mothers and their newborn children, even though it is saving money.

Free beds for premature births, or for deliveries to women with complications, are no longer available at the northern hospital, sending women to central and southern Okinawa hospitals. The problem is compounded by a lack of free beds in the southern hospital. Half the pregnant women now served by the southern hospital are from Northern Okinawa.

Chuubu Hospital began closing in April 2005, at a time it was serving 398 pregnant women. That number rose to 452 last year, with hospital officials scrambling to place the women in its southern hospital. Doctors say the hospital closing continues to pose big problems for pregnant women, and also for newborn babies.

More than a dozen women have delivered their babies in the southern hospital, even though some where living close by the northern facility. Mothers are complaining they must travel, often much of the day, to visit the southern hospital to nurse their babies.

Pregnant women are pleading for health care in the north, and that they not be sent south. The southern Chuubu facility canít disagree, because it has no free beds available.

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