JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After decades of delivering babies in Jacksonville, Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside has made the decision to close its maternity ward, effective March 19.
The Family Birth Place offered personalized birthing experiences before, during and after pregnancy, but in recent years, the demand at the hospital has dwindled as alternative options for maternity care have increased in the region, the hospital said.
According to data from the state, there’s been a downward trend in births in Duval County overall since the 2007 recession.
Stefan Rayer, Ph.D., population program director for the University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research, said disruptions like the Great Recession and COVID-19 usually mean fewer people having babies.
“We expect births to go up slightly over the next couple of years, but that is quite uncertain,” Rayer said.
Ascension St. Vincent’s Southside and Ascension St. Vincent’s Clay County will continue to provide maternity care, and Riverside patients impacted by the closure will be contacted individually “to ensure personalized, seamless continuity of care at other area facilities, in consultation with their doctors.”
The hospital said plans are also in place to work with impacted associates to determine potential opportunities for transitioning to open positions within Ascension St. Vincent’s.
To learn more about Ascension St. Vincent’s and the other specialized care the health system provides, visit www.healthcare.ascension.org.
News4JAX asked how many patients and providers are impacted, but a spokesperson said they don’t have that information to release right now. But News4JAX learned that the health system reported to the state 68 employees are losing their jobs at the maternity ward, and 62 of those are nurses.
Ascension filed a WARN notice — which is filed when a company is closing a facility or having mass layoffs — with Tuesday’s date that states employees would be notified starting Wednesday. It says the hope is that employees apply for other open positions within Ascension, but if they don’t get another position, they will be eligible to receive severance.
Here’s the breakdown of the number of employees for each job title:
- RN-Labor & Delivery – 28
- RN-NICU – 14
- RN-Float – 10
- Asst-Unit – 5
- RN-Registered Nurse – 4
- RN-Lactation – 4
- RN Spv-Nursing – 1
- Training Educator – 1
- RN Mgr-Nursing – 1
Former patient shocked by end of maternity care at Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside
News4JAX has heard from so many people who’ve said their children were born at Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside or they were born there.
For generations, Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside has been welcoming babies to the world.
“Both my parents were born there in the ‘40s,” Tricia Thoren said.
Thoren said that she and so many of her family members were born there, including her five children, and that they joke the health system should put them on a billboard.
“Tons of nieces, nephews, all my siblings,” Thoren said. “We have so many memories there.”
She said she was surprised when Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside announced Thursday that it will be suspending maternity care.
“I was really shocked,” said the former Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside maternity patient. “It just seemed odd that a hospital wouldn’t have a maternity ward.”
Thoren lives on the Westside, and she said there aren’t really closer options for expectant parents.
“I don’t even know what I would have done if we didn’t have that hospital,” she said. “I have adult children who could be having babies anytime now. So, you know, so I don’t know where they’ll go. It’s just kind of sad that, like, that stops with, you know, the last baby in the family born there will be it, I guess.”