Dr. Bob Flowers has delivered hundreds of babies at Roper Hospital.

An era comes to an end on Jan. 1, though, when the obstetrics unit at the hospital closes.

“I didn’t see it coming,” Flowers said. “I think that a lot of us are trying to get our head around it and come to grips with it.”

He said the change is both sad and positive.

“We’ll just be birthing babies at different locations,” Flowers said.

In a related move, the three-hospital health care system of which Roper is a part will expand its labor and delivery unit at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital in West Ashley.

The West Ashley hospital expects to deliver 1,800 babies this year compared with 700 babies at Roper Hospital.

Bon Secours St. Francis forecasts 2,500 deliveries next year.

The labor and delivery expansion will allow for up to 4,000 newborns yearly, said Roper Chief Executive Officer Matt Severance.

By consolidating obstetrics services, the health care system will raise quality and lower cost, he said.

Only about 6 percent of women who have their babies at Roper Hospital come from the city peninsula, he said.

“The majority actually already live closer to Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital,” Severance said.

Although Roper will stop delivering babies, it will continue to offer prenatal care and birth-preparation classes.

Severance said he met Thursday with 40 affected hospital staff members to deliver the news. No one will lose their job because of the change, he said.

Severance, who also is Roper St. Francis Healthcare senior vice president of operations, said Roper Hospital will continue to deliver babies on an emergency basis.

Obstetrics services at Roper St. Francis Mount Pleasant Hospital will not be affected by the consolidation because demand east of the Cooper is growing. Between 350 and 400 babies will be born at the hospital this year, he said.

About five years ago, Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital renovated and expanded its obstetrics unit in anticipation of continued growth. No decision has been made on how the Roper Hospital labor and delivery area will be used after Jan. 1, Severance said.