Emotions often ran high Tuesday as doctors, nurses and mothers shared their perspectives about the possible closure of the family birthing center at New Milford Hospital.

A crowd of nearly 100 including officials, medical professionals and concerned area residents gathered in New Milford High School's lecture hall for a public hearing conducted by the state Department of Public Health's Office of Health Care Access.

The hearing was prompted by a proposal from the Western Connecticut Health Network to close the birthing center at the local hospital.

The network, which includes New Milford and Danbury hospitals, filed a certificate of need with the state Aug. 16 for permission to stop delivering babies at New Milford Hospital.

Plans are to relocate deliveries to Danbury Hospital.

According to the certificate of need, shifting deliveries to Danbury was necessitated by "an approximate 9 percent decline annually in births since 2007," resulting in a loss of about $650,000 annually to New Milford Hospital.

"This was a hard decision," said Dr. John Murphy, president and CEO of Western Connecticut Health Network. "It was a decision based on the low number of births at New Milford Hospital and reinforced by the demographic trend over many years.

"It was reinforced by the many New Milford women who have already chosen to deliver at Danbury Hospital," said Dr. Murphy. "And we are confronted by financial realities."

Deborah Weymouth, the hospital's executive director, offered testimony that the closing of the center would allow the facility to upgrade other departments and better serve the community.

Countering their arguments were seven mothers, several holding their babies as they spoke, who weren't swayed by finances or demographic data.

"I'm probably No. 25 in the mothers of the 243 births they say occurred in New Milford in 2012," said Tanya LaPoint. "If this change goes through, I will be No. 243 at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital (in Torrington) with my next birth because I want the close-knit, family- centered team."

Drs. Orlito Trias and John Sussman, longtime New Milford Hospital obstetricians, spoke passionately about the possible problems should the center close, and the overall future of the hospital and its staff.

"Ironically, we were so busy with three births so far today," Dr. Sussman said, as he stood in his scrubs, ready to return to the hospital.

"Many of the nurses from the birthing center who were going to speak here today are unable to make it," he added, echoing a common sentiment the 3 p.m. hearing was an inopportune time for many potential speakers.

Three veteran nurses from the family birthing center -- Linda Westlake, Geralyn Turner and Lori Schneider -- did make it to the hearing to speak against the closing and tout the team effort of the local facility.

"If you have a patient with a placental abruption that is hemorrhaging, Danbury Hospital can seem light years away," Ms. Schneider said.

Dr. Thomas Koobatian, chief of staff and director of emergency medicine at New Milford Hospital said emergency room personnel are receiving training to handle such situations.

Yet Ms. Schneider said she didn't believe such training has occurred to this point.

Hearing officer Kevin Hansted said he will review and consider the public comments, expert testimony and other information collected as part of the certificate of need process.

Mr. Hansted said he will render a proposed decision on the closing in two weeks, at which time the public hearing will be officially closed.

The final decision will be made by the state Department of Public Health's deputy commissioner.

People unable to attend the public hearing can submit comments in a letter to the Office of Health Care Access, Certificate of Need Program, 410 Capitol Ave., MS#OHCA, Hartford, CT 06134.

Correspondents are asked to refer the letters to application 12-31781-CON.