York Hospital will close its birthing unit this month, citing declining birth rates and an ongoing shortage of health care workers.

It’s the seventh hospital in Maine to discontinue obstetrics services since 2015. Most of the others have been in rural parts of the state.

“We’re keenly aware of the impact that this difficult decision will have on our patients and our community,” York Hospital President and CEO Dr. Patrick Taylor said in a statement Tuesday announcing the decision. “Multiple steps were taken to keep the department open, but unfortunately, worker shortages have left us unable to provide the level of consistent, high-quality care our patients deserve.”

Taylor said the hospital is working with Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover, N.H., which is about 15 miles away, to connect current patients before the unit’s closure on Sept. 25.

“I’m grateful to the team at Wentworth-Douglass for their assistance in ensuring the safety and uninterrupted care of our patients, and I’m confident they will continue to provide a higher level of care for both our mothers and babies,” he said.

York Hospital is an independent nonprofit health care facility, one of only a handful in Maine not affiliated with a larger organization like MaineHealth or Northern Light Health. It’s been around since 1906 and employs 270 physicians at its main campus and seven satellite sites across Southern Maine.


Expectant mothers will still receive pre- and post-natal care at York Hospital, just not labor and delivery care. York Hospital also will continue to provide gynecological care and pediatric services.

A York Hospital spokesperson said Taylor was not available for an interview Tuesday because all efforts were being made to assist patients with the transition. Jean Kolak also said she couldn’t provide specific numbers on births at the hospital, but said the number has decreased by 22 percent since 2018.

Overall, births have been declining steadily in Maine for the last 50 years, and 2011 was the first calendar year in at least 70 years in which more people died in Maine than were born here, according to data from the state’s Office of Vital Records. There was a slight uptick in births in 2021 and 2022 from previous years, although the numbers remained below historical levels.

Jeff Austin, vice president of the Maine Hospital Association, said his understanding of the situation at York Hospital is that it had much more to do with workforce challenges than volume.

“I think they thought they still had a healthy volume, they just couldn’t get staff,” he said.

Austin said workforce challenges in health care have stabilized somewhat, but “the plane hasn’t landed yet.” He also pointed out that obstetricians are more specialized and have unpredictable schedules.


The latest closure follows a trend in health care over the last decade. A 2023 study by the health care consulting firm Chartis found that more than 200 hospitals across the country have closed their labor and delivery departments since 2011, and 19 of those have occurred within the last year.

Since 2015, the following Maine hospitals have closed their birthing units: Northern Maine Medical Center and Rumford Hospital, this year; St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, Lewiston, in 2022; Bridgton Hospital in 2021; Calais Regional Hospital in 2018; and Penobscot Valley Hospital, Lincoln, in 2015.

Rumford Hospital, which is part of Central Maine Healthcare, announced in February that its maternity services would end on March 31. Officials also cited declining birth rates and a shortage of obstetricians willing to practice in the area.

A hospital spokesman said at the time that births declined from 100 in 2017 to 54 in 2022 at the Rumford facility, nearly 50 percent.

The next closest hospital to Rumford that offers birthing services is Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, which is about an hour away.

“This was an extremely difficult, but necessary decision to make,” Central Maine Healthcare president Steve Littleson told the Sun Journal.

Austin said hospitals are often reluctant to eliminate birthing units because it’s one of the only places in hospitals that bring joy.

Overall, though, he said the closure of birthing units across the state reflects Maine’s demographics.

“I think the more rural you are in this country, not just in Maine, it’s a service that’s a little bit more difficult to find,” he said.

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