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York Hospital to close its birthing unit at the end of the month

York Hospital will discontinue its childbirth services at the end of the month. It's the third hospital in Maine to close a birthing center this year.

York Hospital says the decision was not forced by financial considerations, but by declining birth rates and a workforce shortage.

According to a spokesperson, births have decreased by 22% over the past five years and now average less than one per day.

York will still offer pre- and post-natal care, but patients seeking labor and delivery services will now have to travel 30 minutes to Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover, New Hampshire.

Assistant vice president of women and children's services at Wentworth-Douglass, Nicole Pendenza, says the hospital expects to perform 15-25 additional deliveries a month. And she says and they have a good relationship with York hospital.

"The transition for the patients, we'll be able to maintain their records. We'll know the health history of the patients. So it's really going to be a safe environment for them," she says.

York is the latest in a string of Maine hospitals to announce the end of labor and delivery services in recent years. And it's the third so far this year, following Rumford Hospital in March and Northern Maine Medical Center in May.