3 Alabama hospitals to close maternity units

Two Alabama hospitals will stop providing maternity care at the end of October, with another following suit a few weeks later, NBC reported Oct. 15. 

Monroe County Hospital in Monroeville, Ala., will shutter its obstetrics unit due to a lack of staff, according to the report. The department has only one physician, with at least two needed to maintain labor and delivery services.

Birmingham, Ala.-based Brookwood Baptist Health, a five-hospital system, is also closing obstetrics departments at hospitals in Birmingham and Shelby County.

The decisions will leave Shelby and Monroe counties without any birthing hospitals, and strip a predominantly Black neighborhood in Birmingham of an in-demand maternity unit, according to NBC.

In Shelby County, pregnant women will have to travel at least 17 miles farther to reach a hospital with an OBGYN. Those in Monroe County may have to travel between 35 and 100 miles to get to a labor and delivery department.  

Rising costs and ongoing staff shortages have forced rural hospitals across the country to shutter labor and delivery units, leading to maternity care deserts — counties without a hospital or birth center offering obstetric care and without any obstetric providers. Closures often worry nearby residents, as the commute to the next obstetrics department can be lengthy — and in some cases, dangerous.

Becker's has reported on more than 23 other hospitals that have ended or are ending maternity care this year.

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