ESRH withdraws from agreement to provide inpatient pediatric care at Riverside

December 8, 2023
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Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital Emergency Room Entrance

Recently Eastern Shore Rural Health withdrew from its partnership with Rivrside to provide obstrecis and pediatric care to local patients.

Riverside released this statement Thursday:

“Eastern Shore Rural Health (ESRH) has been a partner of our hospital for over 40 years supporting obstetrics and pediatric care alongside our providers for patients on the Eastern Shore. We are profoundly disappointed in the decision made by Rural Health administration and their governing Board to end our longstanding partnership and cease to provide inpatient pediatric coverage of the Nursery and clinical support to babies undergoing complicated deliveries and C-sections at Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital (RSMH).

Moreover, the 60-day notice period given by ESRH is an extraordinarily short time to find replacement pediatricians. Riverside asked ESRH to extend the notice period, but they declined to do so. Without this pediatric coverage, it is not possible to operate an obstetrical program from a clinical standpoint. Despite this new challenge, Riverside remains committed to maintaining these services and caring for patients of all ages in our community, including especially pregnant mothers and their babies. Riverside will develop a short-term plan for providing this coverage within the deadline imposed by ESRH and a longer-term plan to provide enhanced pediatric services on the Eastern Shore. In the coming weeks, we look forward to sharing updates with you as we have already begun conversations with other health care organizations about a new partnership opportunity. – Mike Dacey, M.D., Riverside President and CEO, and Nick Chuquin, President of RSMH”

Then Eastern Shore Rural Health responded with the following:

“Beginning February 4, 2024, Eastern Shore Rural Health System, Inc. will be focusing on providing pediatric care in outpatient settings, ensuring even more personalized and comprehensive healthcare for children in our community. On this date, Rural Health will no longer care for newborns inside Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital immediately after birth, thereby creating more pediatric appointments in Rural Health centers. Currently Rural Health pediatricians take care of each baby born at Riverside Shore Memorial, within the hospital nursery, until the newborn is discharged. Rural Health and Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital have collaborated to provide care for the pediatric population of the Eastern Shore of Virginia for more than 40 years.

“This decision was made after more than a year of discussion with Riverside leadership, internal meetings between Rural Health staff teams and the Rural Health board, plus a review of data and provider training,” said Rural Health CEO Jeannette Edwards. “On May 16, 2023, our staff leadership met with Riverside President and CEO Mike Dacey, M.D. and other Riverside leadership to make them aware of our inability to continue with the current coverage arrangement, and to discuss alternative staffing options.”

Rural Health then consulted with several neonatal experts to explore coverage options, and ultimately hired outside temporary pediatricians to increase the number of available nursery physicians, as Rural Health attempted to resolve this issue. On Nov. 30, after additional discussions with Riverside leadership, Rural Health provided the 60-day notice required in its contract. Two Rural Health pediatricians are fully retiring from taking hospital call on Dec. 30 and there are a limited number of temporary outside pediatricians available to assist Rural Health’s remaining two pediatricians.

“Given the specialized training needed for newborns with critical needs, and the hardship it creates for recruiting and retaining enough physicians to meet the needs of the region’s children, the difficult decision was made to withdraw from inpatient care,” said Edwards. “Efforts to recruit pediatricians have been hampered in large part due the requirement to provide hospital coverage, which is no longer the norm in most communities. We even had Riverside’s own recruiting firm attempt to help us find pediatricians willing to do both inpatient (in hospital) and outpatient care – they were unsuccessful.”

Rural Health cares for almost 8,000 patients ages 18 and under as the Eastern Shore of Virginia’s only health care provider with pediatricians. “This decision prioritizes these patients,” Edwards said. “This move aligns with discussions held with Riverside regarding allowing both organizations to do what they do best. We will focus on outpatient primary care medicine at our centers and Riverside Shore Memorial will focus on delivering all inpatient services for the Shore.”

“It has been a very long and difficult process to arrive at the decision to end our coverage of the newborn nursery at Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital. We are very proud of the longstanding commitment, by Rural Health, Riverside Shore Memorial and the Health Department to provide care for mothers and newborns during a time when many communities lost local care,” said Drs. Cathy and David Riopel, who have both been pediatricians with Rural Health for 31 years. “Our decision comes out of a need to focus our resources to support the health of the children in our community ages 0-18. We are committed to continuing to provide a high standard of pediatric care to infants, children and adolescents on the Shore. We are thankful that Riverside will continue to provide inpatient care to mothers and their newborns.”

“We remain committed to working with Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital to provide high quality, cost effective care for the people of Virginia’s Eastern Shore,” Edwards said.

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