Professional care amid the closing of Lower Bucks maternity ward

Posted: December 08, 2012

Elkins Park resident Jessica Zisserman had her son, Hillel, by cesarean section Nov. 4 at Lower Bucks Hospital in Bristol - where she ended up because she was determined to be in the care of a midwife rather than an obstetrician.

Two weeks after Hillel's birth, the hospital said it would close the money-losing maternity unit as early as Dec. 31. The prospect of closure had been raised earlier in the fall.

Given those uncertain circumstances, Zisserman, 32, was amazed by the care she received.

"These nurses knew that they were not necessarily going to have a job. Everything was in limbo, and they acted like they were working in the finest hospital that was going to be open forever," Zisserman said in an interview this week at home with her 4-week-old son sleeping on her lap. "I was the most important person in the world."

Zisserman's husband, Adam, 35, had a similar reaction to the care: "They were warm. They were attentive. They were professional. There was nothing about their demeanor or their care that suggested, 'What do we care?' "

Peter Adamo, the regional chief executive for the company that bought Lower Bucks in October, said he was "not surprised to hear about her experience, since professionals understand the gravity of their work. We have very dedicated people at [Lower Bucks], and it is a shame to see the wonderful program go away."

Adamo said some of the nearly 50 full- and part-time nurses would likely find other jobs at Lower Bucks. The hospital is also working with nearby facilities to find jobs for nurses.

Having her baby at Lower Bucks was not an obvious move for Zisserman. She knew she wanted to have a midwife care for her during the pregnancy and the delivery - an arrangement that was hard to find in a world of disappearing maternity wards.

She wanted to give birth in a hospital - just in case. "Also, we needed our families' backing. . . . They weren't going to go for a home birth."

Midwives do not deliver at the closest hospitals, Abington Memorial and Holy Redeemer. Zisserman visited Pennsylvania Hospital's nurse-midwifery clinic, but in that model, she would see a different midwife at every visit and not know who would be there at the birth.

She found an independent midwife who would see her all the way through her pregnancy, but Patricia McCalley delivered babies only at Lower Bucks, 45 minutes away.

For McCalley, whose office is at Jeanes Hospital, Lower Bucks is a rerun. "This is the third place I've been at that has closed," she said. Her next stop is St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne.

Zisserman did not have the natural birth she imagined. After 36 hours of labor, McCalley advised her that circumstances made a C-section advisable.

Still, knowing that the care she received in Lower Bucks' maternity unit is going away has made Zisserman scared about having another baby: "I expect it to be a cold experience, where I'm just going to be a number."


Contact Harold Brubaker

at 215-854-4651 or hbrubaker@phillynews.com.

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