When Jennifer Calhoun gives birth to twins some time in the next seven weeks, she plans to have the delivery at the Family Birthing Center at New Milford Hospital.

This will be Ms. Calhoun's second delivery in New Milford. Her and her husband Dan's Sixteen-month-old Layla, the daughter of Dan and Jennifer Calhoun, was born there, too.

That's why, when Ms. Calhoun heard the birthing center would be closing by year's end, she was saddened.

"I'm very disappointed," she said. "I'll be able to deliver the twins there, but to lose the center from the community -- the nurses and staff there are excellent and my doctor's so close by."

Deborah Weymouth, executive director of New Milford Hospital and senior vice president of operations at Western Connecticut Health Network, which also includes Danbury Hospital, made the announcement March 22 the birthing center would be closing (see related story on S1).

"Services won't change until the end of the calendar year," Ms. Weymouth said. "First and foremost, we want a transition that is respectful and clinically appropriate for the mothers we serve."

"It was a tough decision," Ms. Weymouth said. "What keeps me going at a time like this is our vision as a network of providing quality, accountable care with fewer resources."

Mayor Pat Murphy is fighting to keep New Milford natives certified as New Milford-born.

"When you're in the military, and you give birth overseas, your baby still gets a U.S. birth certificate," said Mayor Murphy, a military veteran. "It would be nice if New Milford babies born in Danbury could still get New Milford birth certificates."

Western Connecticut Health Network will ask the state Commission on Health Care Access to approve the relocation of delivery from New Milford to Danbury as an in-network change, Ms. Weymouth said.

There are 29 Connecticut hospitals with birthing centers, according to Department of Public Health statistics.

New Milford would be the second hospital in the state to close its center, according to the DPH. Rockville General Hospital's center closed in January 2011, relocating services to Manchester.

A staff of 18 will be displaced by the center's closing. Some nurses might be offered a transfer to Danbury, Ms. Weymouth said, while others will be offered training for different departments in New Milford.

Joanne Chapin, nurses' union president in New Milford, said, "Word had already gotten out (before March 22).

"Three of the nurses have already found good jobs at area hospitals," Ms. Chapin related. "Others are waiting to see what happens.

"A lot of the nurses went into OB when they got out of school," she continued. "For some of the nurses, that was 30 years ago. Many don't want to change specialties."

A transfer to Danbury Hospital would mean losing their seniority status for the nurses, Ms. Chapin added.

Dr. Carol Papov, chairman of the OB-GYN Department in New Milford, prepared a statement, which she said speaks for her and other doctors in the department.

"We of the OB-GYN department are saddened to see the end of labor and delivery at New Milford Hospital," the statement reads. "Numerous patients have been expressing concerns about not being able to have their next baby at New Milford Hospital because they have had wonderful birth experiences and very personal care by our nurses.

"The OB-GYNs in New Milford are presently evaluating all of our options of where to deliver and operate," Dr. Papov's statement continues, "and will do what in the end will be best for our patients and our practices."

Dr. Papov has posted a survey on her practice's website, Women's Healthcare of New Milford. It asks patients which option they would prefer -- to use Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington or Danbury Hospital for deliveries and procedures.

"Wherever we go, be it Sharon, Torrington or Danbury, we'll be far enough away that we will have to join a larger call group (of doctors)," Dr. Papov said. "Some people like a small, more intimate group of on call doctors when they deliver.

"It's frustrating," she said. "Whatever I do, I'll lose patients who don't want to lose me as their doctor."

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322

"I'm very disappointed. I'll be able to deliver the twins there, but to lose the center from the community -- the nurses and staff there are excellent and my doctor's so close by."

Jennifer Calhoun of New Milford