January 19, 2018
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Deadline looms for Blue Hill obstetrics unit

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff

BLUE HILL, Maine — The fight to save the obstetrics unit at Blue Hill Memorial Hospital continues to receive contributions, but organizers fear their efforts may have fallen short.

The total raised so far is more than $155,000, according to Henrietta Clews, a nurse-midwife who has helped to deliver babies at the hospital since the 1980s. The figure includes receipts from the Bellies for Bellies fundraiser auction last month and a massageathon held last weekend.

“I hate to say it, but that’s probably not enough,” Clews said Monday. “But I don’t know.”

The hospital’s trustees, faced with severe cash-flow problems, last month voted to close the obstetrics department, but administrators gave organizers until March 10 to raise the $600,000 needed to run the department for a year.

Earlier this year, the hospital cut 34 positions and laid off 15 employees in an effort to cut costs. Administrators are working to develop a break-even budget for the hospital for the start of the new fiscal year, which begins April 1.

In addition to the Bellies for Bellies fundraiser, Clews said, other donations also have come in.

One fundraising strategy came as a surprise, according to Clews. The Woodland Studio in Ellsworth designed and printed a T-shirt bearing the slogan “I helped another baby to be born at Blue Hill Memorial Hospital.” The shirts are on sale at the Tradewinds Market in Blue Hill for $10. According to Clews, the owners of Tradewinds have promised to match that $10 for every shirt that is sold.

“We’re so grateful. I can’t believe how generous everyone has been,” she said. “We haven’t given up yet. Checks are still coming in.”

Dr. Erik Steele, the interim administrator at the hospital, said in a press release Monday that March 10 is the deadline “for raising $600,000 to keep our OB practice open for a year.”

“We are in communication with area hospitals about OB services and are committed to helping our current patients,” he said. “I will be issuing a statement after I meet with the staff members who have worked so hard to advance this cause.”

Steele is scheduled to meet with the obstetrics staff at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

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