Dr. Jesanna Cooper, an obstetrician and gynecologist who previously worked at Princeton Baptist Medical Center, the Birmingham hospital that closed its maternity service, told NBC: “People will show up giving birth in the ER and the outcomes will be bad.”
More than a million people in Alabama will be left without maternity care as three hospitals prepare to stop give birth to babies.
The maternity wards at Monroe County Hospital, Shelby Baptist Medical Center and Princeton Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham will close at the end of next month. leaving about 1.5 million in Shelby and Monroe counties without birthing hospitals.
Hospitals said the decisions were made because of staffing shortages believed to have been fueled by an exodus following a ban on abortions in the state, which already has the third-worst maternal and infant mortality rate in the country. and lack of funds.
It will mean families seeking maternal care will have to drive up to 100 miles to the nearest hospital to see an OB-GYN.
Honor McDaniel, director of maternal and child health initiatives for the March of Dimes in Alabama, said NBC News: “There is a sense of dread knowing that there will be families who will now not only drive to the county, but will drive through three counties.”
The maternity wards at Monroe County Hospital (pictured right), Shelby Baptist Medical Center (pictured left) and Princeton Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham will close at the end of next month, leaving about 1 .5 million in Shelby and Monroe counties without any births. hospitals
It will also mean Birmingham’s predominantly black neighborhood will no longer have the maternity unit it desperately needs.
Soon, expectant mothers in Shelby County, with a population of more than 900,000 people, will be forced to travel a minimum of 17 more miles to see an OB-GYN in a hospital.
People in Monroe County, which has more than 750,000 residents, will have to drive up to 100 miles.
This is not all that unusual for the state. According to the nonprofit March of Dimes, more than a third of Alabama counties are maternity care deserts, meaning they have no hospitals with obstetric care, birth centers, OB-GYNs, or certified nurse-midwives.
Alabama’s death rate was 41.4 in 2018-2021, the latest data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is also double the national death rate of 23.5.
This is the number of female deaths per 100,000 live births during pregnancy or within 42 days after termination of pregnancy due to something related to or made worse by the pregnancy or how it was managed, but not from accidental causes.
If people can’t get to a birthing hospital quickly enough in an emergency, “people will show up giving birth in the emergency room and the outcomes will be bad,” said Dr. Jesanna Cooper, an obstetrician and gynecologist who worked previously at Princeton. she told NBC Baptist Medical Center, the Birmingham hospital that is closing her maternity ward.
And he added: “If you arrive with a very premature baby and give birth in the emergency room, and you don’t have a NICU or an obstetrics team, things are not going to go well.”
Monroe County Hospital said it would close its delivery unit due to staffing shortages.
The department only has one doctor, but at least two are needed to maintain labor and delivery services.
The hospital told NBC in a statement: “It appears that no amount of money provided by the hospital board for Labor and Delivery support has been sufficient to maintain this service.”
“We have supported and would continue to support Labor and Delivery if there was someone who could provide the service.”
Maternity units are not always profitable for hospitals. About nine percent of Alabama residents have no health insurance and nearly half of births in the state are covered by Medicaid.
Medicaid reimbursements can be much lower than private insurance plans.
Dr. John Waits, CEO of the nonprofit Cahaba Medical Care, which runs medical clinics that accept patients regardless of their ability to pay, told NBC: “No one wants women and children to do poorly. , but you can’t lose money year after year either.” in a service line.’
He added: “There is something broken in the flow of funding that helps us take care of our women and children.”