Hospitals offering obstetrics facilities down 23%

Finding a hospital that offers obstetrics has become more and more difficult for women living in rural areas over the last few decades, particularly so in parts of Minnesota, according to a Minnesota Public Radio report.

The number of hospitals that offer obstetrics is down 23 percent nationwide and the situation is even direr in rural areas, according to a 2007 study by the Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis cited in the report.

Given the decline in hospitals offering birthing facilities, only 20 percent of rural counties nationwide have access to obstetrics services, according to the report.

In Minnesota, two hospitals — Cook County North Shore Hospital in Grand Marais, Minn., and Ely (Minn.)-Bloomenson Community Hospital — have recently decided to close their birthing facilities. With their closure, the nearest available facilities for cesarean sections are in Duluth, Minn., roughly 110 miles away from the Cook County hospital.

For many hospitals, the decision to close down their obstetrics services has less to do with lack of demand and more to do with not being able to get insurance due to rules set by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, according to the report.

One rule requires hospitals to make emergency C-sections available within 30 minutes for birthing moms, a measure Milan Schmidt, MD, medical director at Cook County North Shore Hospital called, "unimaginable."

Kimber Wraalstad, the hospital's administrator, expressed similar sentiments about the feasibility of ACOG's 30-minute C-requirement at Cook County since it dos not have a surgery suite.

"Even if we did [have a surgery suite], we estimate to have anesthesia and surgery capabilities —not including the surgeon — would be $1 million a year," Ms. Wraalstad told MPR. "That does not include a surgeon or an OB-GYN or a family practitioner who's trained to do a C-section."


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