Hospital Closures Affecting Rural Mothers
In rural areas of the country, hospitals are consolidating and more and more patients find themselves living dozens—if not hundreds—of miles away from the nearest medical facility. According to a recent article in The New York Times, these hospital closures are having an especially harmful effect on pregnant women who are not receiving the medical care they need in order to prevent birth defects and birth injuries. High-risk patients, in particular, are not seeing their health care providers as they should be, and more of them are seeing preterm births as a result, in part, of skipped doctor visits. As the article underscores, medical help is becoming dangerously far away for women in the rural parts of the United States. Approximately 5 percent of the country’s hospitals have closed in the last eight years. For women who need obstetric care, the situation has become even more serious.
What is causing hospital closures, and how are missed doctor’s appointments leading to health problems and personal injuries?
Costs of Providing Continuous Obstetric Care in Rural Settings Weighed Against Revenues
According to the article, under 50 percent of rural counties in the U.S. currently provide obstetric care to pregnant women, and many of the hospitals or healthcare facilities that continue to offer care to pregnant women could be at risk of closing. The reason for the closure of rural hospitals, in particular, those that provide obstetric care, is that the operating costs simply cannot be justified by the revenues. As the article emphasizes, when it comes to obstetric care, rural hospitals calculate the math of survival, weighing the cost of providing 24/7 delivery services against decreasing birthrates, shortages of doctors and nurses, and falling revenues.
To summarize, hospitals cannot afford to stay open in rural areas. And even when they can afford to keep their doors open, they cannot afford to maintain obstetric care facilities for pregnant women in the area. When healthcare services for pregnant women are closed, there are substantial costs to women’s health.
Women’s Health and Fetal Health Suffer as Obstetric Facilities Close
In rural areas where obstetric facilities are as far as 100 miles away from many patients’ homes, it becomes nearly impossible for these patients to receive the regular care they need to have a healthy pregnancy. It costs money in gas, not to mention the costs of childcare and lost wages due to time off from work, to travel 100 miles or more to a healthcare facility for a checkup. Pregnant women in rural areas often need to travel 200 miles or more round-trip in order to see an OB/GYN on a regular basis. In terms of time, that is at least three hours in traveling time and often more. And even if there is a facility nearby, the closure of other nearby locations can mean that women are turned away for care.
When pregnant women receive little to no prenatal care, there are often serious health consequences. According to data reported by Child Trends, mothers who do not receive prenatal care or receive late prenatal care “are three times more likely to give birth to a low-weight baby, and their baby is five times more likely to die.”
Contact an Experienced Birth Injury Lawyer
A clear message from the recent article is that pregnant women in rural areas have less access to healthcare, and the issue of access leads more pregnant women to miss valuable doctor’s appointments and prenatal care. Those women are more likely to have premature babies, babies with serious birth injuries, and babies with birth defects. If you have questions, an experienced birth injury lawyer can speak with you today. Contact Cohen, Placitella & Roth for more information.