HAMPTON -- Pregnant military women and spouses in Hampton Roads say they are scrambling to find doctors to deliver their babies after officials at Langley Air Force Base Hospital told them its maternity ward is closing.
Several local health providers and a patient at Langley told The Virginian-Pilot that women due after March 30 are being referred to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth -- the closest military hospital -- or private practice. Many more women discussed the change on Facebook.
Through a spokesman, the Langley hospital has not answered a reporter's questions about the labor and delivery unit nearly every business day the past week. Someone who answered the phone for the unit last week said there'd been "no official word" on the issue but that they are telling patients to check with their providers.
On Wednesday night, a base spokesman emailed a statement that did not directly address whether the maternity unit is closing.
"Our priority is to ensure our medical personnel are trained, equipped and ready to support the operational forces in the field," the statement read. "Likewise, we are committed to delivering outstanding care to our patient population. As we transition to a new model of health care delivery, patients will continue to receive outstanding care and support from our military and civilian partners."
He did not provide further information about the new health care model.
A spokeswoman for Naval Medical Center Portsmouth said in an email the center couldn't comment on the "Air Force issue."
"If a closure is announced by the Air Force, we will have a better idea on the way ahead with the referral of patients to other military treatment facilities in the area," spokeswoman Christina Johnson said in the email.
Susan Boyd, a patient at Langley whose husband is active duty Air Force, is 19 weeks pregnant and said she was told the unit was closing when she went in for a recent appointment.
Since then, she's seen military spouses discuss the issue constantly on Facebook groups, saying they are having a hard time finding new doctors if they are past around 25 weeks pregnant.
"It's just leaving a lot of women in a situation where they are scrambling to find an OB that will take their transfer of care," Boyd said in a text message. "The popular OB practices that spouses constantly recommend are filling up fast."
OB-GYN Associates of Hampton confirmed the practice is taking in many patients that are transferring from Langley.
SheeLee Rock, a local doula and childbirth educator, said she's currently working with an active duty Air Force mom due March 29 -- one day before the deadline she said was given by the Langley hospital.
"If she doesn't have her baby by March 30, then she has to go elsewhere," Rock said. "That's a lot of pressure for moms."
Rock added it's a shame Langley's maternity ward could close because of its good reputation.
"In my experience, Langley labor and delivery is exceptional," Rock said. "It's an amazing place with an amazing staff."
Almost 1,100 babies were delivered at Langley in 2016, according to statistics from the Military Health System. The numbers stayed consistently above 1,000 since 2013, the first year numbers were available. At Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, the number has ranged from 2,800 to 3,300.
Further complicating matters is health insurance. Some moms are saying on social media that they've been turned away from private providers depending on their Tricare plan, Boyd said.
The Center for Women's Health, which has locations in Newport News and Hampton, generally accepts Tricare Select insurance but not Tricare Prime, said Amanda Shaner, who works the center's front desk.
Shaner said she was aware of the closure but that the center has not yet seen any influx in patients.
Boyd has found care with Jennifer Rector, a midwife in Newport News who's offering prenatal care to many of the women affected by the Langley closure.
"Prenatal care is so important during the 3rd trimester," Boyd said in a text message.
This article is written by Katherine Hafner from The Virginian-Pilot and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.