MOBERLY, Mo. -

The Moberly Regional Medical Center announced Thursday the closure of the labor and delivery unit of the hospital starting June 1st.

A news release stated a steady reduction in the number of families who choose the hospital as a provider for pregnancy and birth.

The release said about 1,100 babies were born to Moberly families in 2013, but only 167 were born at Moberly Regional.

This is part of an ongoing trend, according to the release. Over the past three years, there were fewer than 200 births per year, with only 130 projected for 2014.

This trend has made it tough to recruit and keep talented physicians and staff.

The closure of the labor and delivery unit will make room for an expansion of the hospital's surgical wing.

Though the wing is closing, Moberly Regional officials said patients with obstetrics-related emergencies can still be treated at the hospital.

Staff who work in the OB unit will be offered the opportunity to move into the expanded surgical unit or other positions at the hospital.

Staff is available to help patients who are scheduled to deliver at Moberly Regional after June 1st transition to alternative care.

Dr. Afrassiab's patients can contact her clinic at 660-263-6500 until May 29, and Dr. Lee's patients can call his clinic at 660-263-4800.

After these clinics close, patients can call administration at 660-269-3190.