The Erie St. Clair LHIN board voted to establish an expert panel and recommendations for a timeline going forward at a special meeting regarding the future of Leamington District Memorial Hospital's obstetrics unit.

Hundreds of people voiced their concerns regarding the recommended closure of the obstetrics ward in March, 2015.

The news that pregnant women would face a long drive to Windsor or Chatham has been met with a great deal of concern.

Throughout the evening, the LHIN heard from healthcare stakeholders, including EMS, the midwifery program and local politicians.

“Tonight’s meeting provided our Board with a variety of significant issues for our Board to consider in its’ review of the Leamington District Memorial Hospital’s proposal,” said Martin Girash, Erie St. Clair LHIN Chair, in a news release. “It was clear that the Leamington and area communities are passionate about their local hospital services including their obstetrics program. They also identified the health care needs of their rural community. All of this information will be considered in our decision.”

Officials say the hospital is facing a $2-million shortfall.

With only 300 births each year, the hospital board decided unanimously to end birthing services and instead focus on the emergency department, internal medicine, in and outpatient surgery and restorative care for the growing aging population that's predicted in the future.

The LHIN’s next special open board meeting on the topic is Nov. 27.