Births at Lawrence Memorial Hospital were down in 1991, and hospital officials point to the departure of local obstetricians and gynecologists as the reason for the decline.
The final 1991 tally showed that 943 babies 479 boys and 464 girls were born at LMH. That was 136 fewer babies than in 1990, when 1,079 babies were born at the hospital.
Robert Ohlen, executive director of the hospital, said LMH officials had expected fewer births for 1991.
"I guess our expectations were that we were going to have some loss in this area. And it looks as though we have," Ohlen said during a recent interview.
At board of trustees meetings throughout the year, Dennis Strathmann, LMH associate executive director of finance, frequently reported fewer births for the year and decreased patient days in what is now called the Mother-Baby Unit.
IN HIS financial report at the December board meeting, Strathmann said "nursery activity also continued to suffer during November. . . . The length of stay in this area dropped to 1.9 days, significantly below both the budget and year-to-date actual."
Despite the losses, Ohlen said he was not particularly concerned about activity in the Mother-Baby Unit. And Ohlen expects that things will begin to turn around in 1992, although it will take awhile to recapture the market lost when two OB-GYNs, Charles Schutt and Scott Gray, left Lawrence in 1990.
And Ohlen said a new feature in the Mother-Baby Unit, epidural anesthesia, will be added next Wednesday. The anesthetic agent is given to women before delivery to provide pain management, making delivery a bit easier.
HE ALSO said that a new associate in the office of Dr. Stephen Vierthaler, who practices with Lincoln Center Obstetrics and Gynecology, is expected to come on board next summer. Ohlen said that physician should "further assist us in recapturing the market." Once the associate is added, that will bring the number of OB-GYNs who deliver at LMH to four, the number the hospital had before it lost its first physician in December 1990.
Although he doesn't have data to back up his assumption, Ohlen believes local women who aren't delivering their babies in Lawrence are going to Topeka and Kansas City-area hospitals. Kansas City-area physicians specializing in obstetrics and gynecology have advertised in Lawrence throughout the year, but while they have office hours in Lawrence, they deliver babies only in Kansas City hospitals.
Ohlen said LMH has budgeted 1,000 births for 1992.
VIERTHALER said he anticipated adding the new associate by Aug. 1 and another in 1993. Vierthaler said "we've been very pleased" with the number of patients in Lawrence.
"It's pretty much what we expected," he added.
Vierthaler estimated it would take four to five years for LMH births to return to their previous numbers.
"These things don't turn around in a hurry," he said.
Here is a breakdown of babies born at LMH since 1980:
1990: 1,079 babies, 563 boys, 516 girls.
1989: 1,150 babies, 585 girls, 565 boys.
1988: 1,096 babies, 600 boys, 496 girls.
1987: 1,092 babies, 548 boys, 544 girls.
1986: 1,113 babies, 601 boys, 512 girls.
1985: 1,006 babies, 515 boys, 491 girls.
1984: 1,019 babies, 513 girls, 506 boys.
1983: 988 babies, 505 girls, 483 boys.
1982: 981 babies, 510 boys, 471 girls.
1981: 1,066 babies, 552 boys, 514 girls.
1980: 1,034 babies, 530 boys, 504 girls.