Dr. William Kerns addresses the Warren County Board of Supervisors during its meeting Tuesday night.

FRONT ROYAL — Valley Health's plans for a new Warren Memorial Hospital should include a birthing center, a longtime town obstetrician told Warren County supervisors at their meeting Tuesday night.

Dr. William Kerns made his statement during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Valley Health last year announced plans to build a $99.7 million replacement complex for the current hospital on a 150-acre parcel off Leach Run Parkway. The new complex would include a three-story hospital with 36 private inpatient rooms, 18 emergency department rooms, three operating rooms, two endoscopy/procedure rooms and a cardiac catheterization lab, according to a Valley Health news release. Obstetric services were not be included in the plans because of “static delivery volumes,” the release said.

Instead, Valley Health touted the services available at Winchester Medical Center in its announcement.

Kerns, who has practiced in town since 1978, said the number of local deliveries has not been static.

"The last four years, for example, have shown increases in deliveries," he said. "Last year, 389; a five-year average of about 370."

Kerns said he believed Valley Health officials were looking at data that shows about 38 percent of deliveries from the Warren County population actually happening at the Winchester hospital.

"It could well be that if you created a beautiful low-tech birthing center on the campus of a new hospital, it would take deliveries away from Winchester," he said. "Closing Warren obviously increases deliveries at Winchester, where Valley Health has made significant investments."

That travel necessity also could have an adverse effect on women and their babies in certain cases.

"Ambulances and the Warren ER are not optimal places to deliver a baby," Kerns said.

The doctor also noted that local ob-gyn personnel have found other employment in the wake of the announcement, creating a staff-retention issue.

Valley Health plans to release a statement on local obstetric care after letters have gone uout to all expectant mothers and their practices also had called them, spokeswoman Carol Weare said in an email.

Valley Health said in its new hospital announcement that it will work closely with pregnant women to ensure a smooth transition to Winchester Medical Center.

Valley Health is reviewing other possible uses for the Shenandoah Avenue facility once relocation is complete, the release said.

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