Fewer births, an aging community, the increased cost of medical care, and higher medical malpractice premiums are the reasons one Florida hospital plans to close its obstetrical unit. The Pasco Regional Medical Center in Dade City announced that the hospital will stop delivering babies by September 1st. Other area hospitals, such as Florida Hospital Zephyrhills, will continue to provide obstetrical services for the community.
Between 2008 and 2012 there has been a 33 percent decline in the number of births in Dade City. Prior to the decline the hospital had been delivering about 300 babies every year. But it is not just Dade City that is experiencing a decline in the number of births. The decline is national with 4.2 million infants born in 2008, which was down slightly from the 4.3 million born the year before.
The decision to close the obstetrical unit was thoroughly discussed and was not made quickly. The proposal was presented to the board of trustees, who asked a lot of questions but in the end they understood the need to close the unit and supported the plan.
Expectant mothers are being informed by the hospital about the change. They will be advised by Pasco Regional based on where they live and with the recommendation of their physicians about which hospital they should go to.
This hospital is not the only one to close its obstetrics unit. There are units closing across the country. Explanations for these closing can be high medical malpractice premiums as well as the increased dependence on Medicaid reimbursements, which covers about 88 percent of the actual costs. With the decrease in the number of insured women and the increase of women on Medicaid, financial pressure on maternity care has increased. This pressure has led to hospitals closing obstetric units.
The closure of obstetric units is felt especially hard by women in rural areas. Even though there are fewer births in rural areas it is recognized that these areas tend to be underserved in the area of obstetrics. However, removing maternity services from rural communities may bring barriers to any prenatal care to rural women given the expense of transportation and childcare. Rural women will face higher risk of complications during childbirth and the outcomes will be poorer for their babies as their access to quality maternity care becomes more difficult to obtain.
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