Hialeah’s expectant mothers seek another hospital after maternity ward closing

When Hialeah Hospital announced it would shut down its maternity ward, one expectant mother was left wondering how her baby, who was due in just a handful of months, would come into the world.

The hospital’s obstetrics and gynecology unit were effectively shut down on April 5, and Nathalie Roldan’s delivery date is scheduled for mid-May.

Roldan, 28, delivered her first child in January 2020 at Hialeah Hospital after going to the hospital during her pregnancy. 

“When I had my baby, it really couldn’t have gone better,” said Roldan. “It was my first pregnancy and despite all of the anxiety that comes with that, I felt really at home at the hospital. So when I found out I was pregnant again, it all felt like it was going to be smooth sailing.” 

She moved back to Hialeah from Little Havana just over two years ago to start a family, choosing the city she was raised in for the many conveniences and services it had, including the hospital.

Roldan’s doctor opened a clinic next to the hospital where moms-to-be go for check-ups and ultrasounds. His deliveries were all performed at the hospital’s labor and delivery unit.

In case of emergencies or concerns, patients were sent over to the hospital for more specialized care, as Roldan was several times throughout her first pregnancy. 

“The clinic I’ve been going to for check-ups for both pregnancies is right across from the hospital and my doctor operates it,” she said. “It made everything easy and made me feel like if anything ever happened, I could just find the solution immediately.” 

But now Roldan has to seek this specialized care at Mercy Miami Hospital, which is over ten miles away from her.

However, it’s not just the safety net of a shorter drive that Roldan is concerned about.

For her, losing the option of going to a hospital that she’s leaned on during a time that she’s felt the most vulnerable and unprepared is her biggest concern. 

“My doctor is going to be performing deliveries at Mercy Hospital now and I’m sure It’s a great hospital, I’ve just only ever been to Hialeah Hospital since my first pregnancy,” she said. “I never thought that would change.”

Tenet Health, the company that owns Hialeah Hospital as well as four other hospitals in Miami-Dade County, said on Hialeah Hospital’s website that the move came after careful consideration and is meant to provide better and more specialized care for their patients.

Shelley Weiss Friedberg, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said the decision was an improvement.

“The transition provides patients with access to a broader range of specialized services for mom and baby,” Friedberg said in an email response.

The loss of the maternity ward in Hialeah Hospital is meant to be remedied by newborn intensive care units at North Shore Medical Center and Palmetto General Hospital.

Both hospitals operate under Tenet Health and their specialized newborn intensive care units provide around the clock care for especially vulnerable newborns.

The consolidation of the labor and delivery unit is meant to improve the kind of care expectant mothers and their newborns can receive.

“Both North Shore Medical Center and Palmetto General Hospital are developing in-house obstetrical hospitalist programs that will provide patients with immediate access to a board-certified obstetrician 24/7,” said Friedberg.

But the hospital no longer having the labor and delivery unit is something that not just Roldan is let down by.

“My first pregnancy was high risk because my baby had fetal growth restriction,” said Roldan. “She was too small for how far along I was so, I spent the last month of my pregnancy going to Hialeah Hospital about three times a week and eventually had to have an emergency C-section.”

The decision led to an online petition on Change.org that has collected over 1,500 signatures.

The petition contends the unit’s closing creates a void in the community. 

Doctors working at the hospital had also protested the closure shortly after it was announced in January, according to an NBC Miami report.

“I’ve already come to know the nurses and staff after all this time,” said Roldan. “It feels like walking into the unknown now.” 

Kelsia Guevara is a journalism student at Florida International University. She is a Cuban-born Miami native raised in the city for nearly two decades.