DOVER -- Union Hospital has been notified by a majority of the members of Akron Children's Hospital Physician Associates in New Philadelphia that most doctors in that group will no longer come to Union Hospital to care for patients after Feb. 29, 2016, or at a time mutually agreeable to the physicians and the hospital. Unless other pediatric physician coverage is found, Union Hospital will close its Pediatrics Unit when physician coverage ends.

The announcement by the pediatric group also affects the Union Hospital Maternity Center where the Akron Children's pediatricians see all newborn infants in the Nursery before their discharge home with their mother.

In its communications with Union Hospital representatives, the Akron Children's Hospital Physician group says they are having trouble recruiting new physicians that wish to provide both inpatient care at a hospital and outpatient care in their office. In the future, children requiring inpatient hospital care would instead be sent to a larger, specialized hospital like Akron Children's Hospital or the Akron Children's Pediatrics Unit at Aultman Hospital in Canton, which is staffed by the Akron Children's physicians.

According to Bruce James, president and CEO, Union Hospital continues to talk with Dr. Jennifer Gigax, a pediatrician with the Akron Children's Hospital practice, and other physicians and hospital provider groups to determine if alternate physician or nurse practitioner coverage can be arranged.

"At this time the hospital has not made the decision to close our Pediatrics Unit, but it is a fact that we cannot admit children to the hospital without physicians to care for them here," James said.

James said that many Pediatric Units in community hospitals around the country are closing or have already closed for lack of physician coverage and very low patient census. "Union Hospital's Pediatrics Unit has averaged less than two patients a day in recent years and for a number of weeks every year it's closed because there are no patients."

Union Hospital remains in communication with the Akron Children's Physician Associates practice, individual members of that practice, and other hospital groups to try and develop a plan for care of pediatric patients and newborns in the Nursery.