U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is urging the Defense Department to reopen a unit at Keller Army Community Hospital that was delivering more than 100 babies a year until it closed last year for what was supposed to be a temporary shutdown.
The Cold Spring Democrat released a letter on Wednesday telling acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan that he recently learned the closure of the labor and delivery unit would be permanent and asking the department to reconsider that decision. He noted the time-sensitive nature of deliveries and the difficulty that families stationed at West Point could face in driving to another hospital in an emergency.
"West Point's location in a valley paired with unpredictable weather can create hazardous traveling conditions for our military families when labor and delivery services are needed quickly," he wrote. "Our military families should not have to risk 45 minutes or more of travel to deliver a child when these services can and should be provided at KACH, within minutes of their home."
The hospital announced in May 2018 that it had too little medical staff to provide epidurals and perform C-sections and that it would close its delivery unit until it hired more people. According to Maloney's office, Keller's deliveries totaled 119, 121 and 110 in the three years before the closure. All Tricare recipients -- the military's civilian health insurance program -- were eligible to give birth at Keller.
The nearest alternative is St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh, a half-hour drive from West Point.
A Defense Department spokeswoman didn't respond on Wednesday to a request for comment on the closure.
Maloney's office said the congressman previously delivered petitions signed by hundreds of local residents seeking to keep the delivery unit open.
"I experienced exceptional care firsthand when I delivered my daughter there back in 2016," Claire Telford, a West Point Tricare beneficiary, said in a press release from Maloney. "Now expectant mothers will face geographic challenges often in adverse conditions as they seek alternative care."
This article is written by Chris McKenna from The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.