Decision to Prioritize Outpatient Care of the Pediatric Population

Eastern Shore Rural Health pediatricians will no longer see newborns in the Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital nursery as of 7 a.m. Monday Feb. 5. A system is in place to schedule hospital follow-up visits for newborns, in our centers, in a timely manner. The hospital will contact Rural Health to set up this appointment and provide visit information to parents BEFORE the newborn leaves the hospital after birth. The first well-baby visit is usually 2 to 3 days after coming home from the hospital, when the baby is about 3 to 5 days old. These visits will take place Monday through Friday. Call your center with questions.

Beginning February 4, 2024, Eastern Shore Rural Health will focus on providing pediatric care in outpatient settings, ensuring even more personalized and comprehensive healthcare for children in our community. 

“It has been a long and difficult process to arrive at the decision to end our coverage of the newborn nursery at Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital. We are very proud of the longstanding commitment by Rural Health, Riverside Shore Memorial and the Health Department to provide care for mothers and newborns during a time when many communities lost local care,” said Drs. Cathy and David Riopel, pediatricians, who have been with us for 31 years. “Our decision comes out of a need to focus our resources to support the health of the children in our community ages 0-18. We are committed to continuing to provide a high standard of pediatric care to infants, children and adolescents on the Shore. We are thankful that Riverside will continue to provide inpatient care to mothers and their newborns.”

Important points: 

  • Currently our pediatricians take care of each baby born at Riverside Shore Memorial, within the hospital nursery, until the newborn is discharged.
  • This decision was made after more than a year of discussion with Riverside leadership, internal meetings between Rural Health staff teams and the Rural Health board.
  • On May 16, 2023, our staff leadership met with Riverside President and CEO Mike Dacey, M.D. and other Riverside leadership to make them aware of our inability to continue with the current coverage arrangement, and to discuss alternative staffing options.
  • We consulted with several neonatal experts to explore coverage options, and ultimately hired outside temporary pediatricians to increase the number of available nursery physicians to staff the nursery.
  • Two of our pediatricians are retiring from taking hospital call on Dec. 30 and there are a limited number of temporary outside pediatricians available to assist our remaining two pediatricians.
  • Efforts to recruit pediatricians have been hampered in large part due to the requirement to provide hospital coverage in addition to care in the centers, which is no longer done in most communities.
  • We contracted with Riverside’s recruiting firm in an attempt to find pediatricians willing to do both inpatient (in hospital) and outpatient care (in our centers). We were not successful.
  • Given the specialized training needed for newborns with critical needs, and the hardship it creates for recruiting
    and retaining enough physicians to meet the needs of the region’s children, the difficult decision was made to stop nursery coverage.
  • On Nov. 30, after additional discussions with Riverside leadership, we provided the 60-day written notice, required in our contract, confirming prior verbal conversations.

We care for almost 8,000 patients ages 18 and under as the Eastern Shore of Virginia’s only health care provider with pediatricians. This decision prioritizes these patients AND this move aligns with discussions held with Riverside regarding allowing both organizations to do what they do best. We will focus on outpatient primary care medicine at our centers and Riverside Shore Memorial will focus on delivering all inpatient services for the Shore.

We remain committed to working with Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital to provide high quality, cost effective care for the people of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Reassurance Regarding Continuity of Care

Eastern Shore Rural Health will no longer provide hospital nursery coverage at Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital as of February 5th. Babies born after February 4, 2024, will receive expert care at Riverside Shore Memorial provided by Riverside. Once these babies leave the hospital, they will receive expert care from Eastern Shore Rural Health at our centers.
Hear our Lead Pediatrician, Dr. Nicole Marsh, explain how Rural Health will follow up with pediatric patients who have received hospital care.