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Nurses at CHI St. Vincent face relocation after labor unit closes

Nurses can either work within another unit at CHI St. Vincent, or move to a neighboring hospital's labor and delivery unit.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The CHI St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock was set to close its labor and delivery unit on March 1, but the dates been moved up.

In December, the hospital said they were closing the unit because deliveries have been steadily declining over the last decade. Paige Yates BSN RN is the OPEIU Local 22 President, which represents nurses.

Yates has been working as a registered nurse in the CHI St. Vincent Infirmary labor and delivery unit for 21 years. She was disheartened when she learned the delivery department and NICU are closing.

“It’s a very big loss for us and our community,” Yates said.

She was more shocked to learn that date has been moved to Feb. 9 because of nurses accepting jobs at other hospitals.

“We’ve had many nurses step up and say they’d step up and work extra if we could stay open until March 1 and the hospital has stated ‘No, we are closing on Feb. 9,’” Yates said.

She said the nurses have been offered jobs in other areas of the hospital or to do labor and delivery at neighboring programs.

“It would be like telling a plumber they had to be an electrician,” Yates said.

However, the nurses are most concerned about their patients.

“Having a baby is a little bit scary. We have cases that are already scheduled through the end of February, you know inductions and C-sections. They’re already scheduled and people are expecting to deliver with us,” Yates said.

Yates said the unit has been a welcoming environment for all people.

“The majority of our patients at St. Vincent’s are underinsured or on Medicaid and we are taking away a place that they are honored and treated the same as anybody else,” Yates said.

The nurses will work in other areas of the hospital without any pay cuts. They can also go to labor and delivery units at other hospitals, who will be absorbing the new patients.

For Yates and other nurses who have worked there for years, leaving the hospital isn't a part of her plan.

"We have accrued a lot of vacation and we have a special place in our hearts for St. Vincent's,” Yates said.

A CHI St. Vincent’s spokesperson said the decision was a difficult one, but is a part of a broader strategic plan.