“This has been a very difficult decision. However, fewer births are occurring at Bayfront Health Seven Rivers and this coincides with the increasing average age of our population,” said hospital CEO, Linda Stockton.
Linda Stockton, CEO of Bayfront Health Seven Rivers
In 2009, there were 1,091 births to women who were Citrus County residents, according to Florida HealthCharts, which tracks Florida health trends for the Florida Department of Health.
Special to the Chronicle
After this date, the 128-bed hospital will no longer provide inpatient labor and delivery services, according to a hospital news release.
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About 80% of those babies were born in Citrus County and 20% of expectant Citrus County mothers went elsewhere to deliver.
In 2019, that number fell to 1,029, and reflected a years-long trend of fewer births here.
Stockton said Seven Rivers experienced an even steeper decline. From 2015-2020 Bayfront Health Seven Rivers experienced a 27% decrease in births and even fewer are projected this year, she said.
In 2019, Seven Rivers delivered about 300 babies annually. Citrus Memorial delivered about 500. Crystal River Mayor Joe Meek said he is saddened by the closure but understands the reasoning behind it.
“While I’m disappointed, obviously it has been a very important service in Crystal River, I understand it’s a business decision and I respect that,” Meek told the Chronicle. Meek said that with the declining births and another hospital in the county that can provide more delivery services, closing that service line at Seven Rivers was understandable.
Citrus Memorial spokeswoman Katie Myers said her hospital can increase its maternity capacity. “In 2020 our Women and Baby Center saw 481 births. There is absolutely room to grow and we’re more than happy to continue providing both labor and delivery care and childbirth education for our community,” she said.
In 2019 Citrus memorial invested $1.8 million in its maternity ward and its hire of four additional OB/GYN physicians. That will leave county residents with only one Citrus County hospital remaining to deliver babies: Citrus Memorial Hospital in Inverness, which has invested heavily in its delivery services.