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11 rural hospitals in Wisconsin stopped delivering babies in past decade, report says
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11 rural hospitals in Wisconsin stopped delivering babies in past decade, report says

First baby of 2019

Gerry and Ciara Grehan, who moved to McFarland from Ireland in 2018, welcome their daughter, Maisie, at UnityPoint Health-Meriter on Jan 1. She was the first baby born at a Madison hospital this year.

Eleven rural hospitals in Wisconsin stopped routinely delivering babies in the past 10 years, with the most recent obstetrics closures in Grantsburg and Ripon in 2017, according to a report this week by the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health.

Five of the 35 rural hospitals still providing obstetrics are at risk of ending the service, though none say they plan to stop it, the report said.

Still, 56% of the state’s rural hospitals perform routine deliveries, compared to 40% of rural hospitals nationally. Nearly 99% of women of child-bearing age in Wisconsin live within a 30-minute drive of a hospital that provides obstetrics, the report said.

Hospitals that don’t provide obstetrics sometimes do emergency deliveries.

“While it is encouraging that no rural hospitals reported intentions of discontinuing obstetric services, it is questionable whether this event is frequently foreseen,” the report said.

“Given current trends in obstetric unit closure and provider coverage and skill maintenance issues, optimism surrounding these data should be cautious and every effort made to support continued provision of these services.”

Hospitals that have stopped doing obstetrics since 2010 are: Bellin Health Oconto Hospital, Oconto; Burnett Medical Center, Grantsburg; Gundersen Boscobel Area Hospital, Boscobel; Gundersen St. Joseph’s Hospital, Hillsboro; HSHS St. Clare Memorial Hospital, Oconto Falls; Indianhead Medical Center, Shell Lake; Marshfield Medical Center, Ladysmith; Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County, Darlington; Memorial Medical Center, Neillsville; Ripon Medical Center, Ripon; and Spooner Health, Spooner.

Penny Black, data manger for the rural health office, declined to say which hospitals are at risk for discontinuing deliveries.

Reasons cited for the obstetrics closures include the challenge of having enough on-call providers and having a low number of deliveries.

Among rural hospitals that provide obstetrics and responded to a survey, 79% use family medicine doctors for deliveries, 60% use obstetricians/gynecologists, 39% use general surgeons and 33% use certified nurse midwives. Some of them are used along with other types of providers.


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