Maternity care deserts a growing concern: 9 hospitals ending services

Rising costs and ongoing staff shortages have led many rural hospitals to close labor and delivery units, leading to maternity care deserts — counties without a hospital or birth center offering obstetric care and without any obstetric providers.

From 2015 to 2019, there were at least 89 obstetric unit closures in rural hospitals, according to The New York Times. By 2020, 47 percent of rural community hospitals did not provide obstetrics care, despite such facilities delivering nearly one in 10 babies in the U.S., according to the American Hospital Association.

Here are nine hospitals that have ended or announced plans to end maternity services this year:

1. Froedtert Holy Family Memorial Hospital in Manitowoc, Wis., will stop all obstetrics care beginning June 1. Obstetrics staff will be offered different positions within the health system, which is working on a care transition plan for women in need of continued services. 

2. Cleveland-based University Hospitals is ending labor and delivery services at UH Lake West in Willoughby, Ohio, effective April 15. Services will be consolidated at TriPoint in Concord Township, which is about 15 miles away.

3. Citing a lack of provider coverage, Ocean Springs, Miss.-based Singing River Health System said it will end obstetric services at Singing River Gulfport (Miss.), at least temporarily, on April 1. 

4. HSHS St. Mary's Hospital in Decatur, Ill., temporarily closed its labor and delivery floor on March 9. Obstetrics and newborn nursery services are projected to close permanently this spring subject to state approval.

5. Rumford (Maine) Hospital is closing its maternity program March 31 after 97 years in service because of a decline in birth rates, staff shortages among obstetricians and the need for a more consistent plan for women's healthcare in the region.

6. Rochester, N.H.-based Frisbie Memorial Hospital was granted permission to discontinue labor and delivery services after HCA Healthcare agreed to a $2.75 million settlement agreement with the Greater Rochester Community Health Foundation to help improve the health and well-bing of the community, the Foster's Daily Democrat reported March 7. 

7. OhioHealth's Shelby Hospital stopped providing maternity services on Feb. 28. Maternity services are provided at OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital, but it is about 13 miles from Shelby Hospital. 

8. Ascension Providence Hospital-Southfield (Mich.) ended midwifery services at the end of February. The hospital, which is part of St. Louis-based Ascension, continues to offer obstetric services. 

9. Astria Toppenish (Wash.) Hospital closed its labor and delivery unit Jan. 14 because of financial losses, fewer deliveries and reduced Medicaid funding, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic.

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