Rural and poor women across the United States are facing new challenges in seeking proper maternity care and options for the delivery of their babies. There are many hospitals in areas with lower populations that are closing their maternity wards citing decreasing birth rates as the reason. Despite the few births, these areas increasingly becoming underserved when it comes to maternity care due to the maternity ward closings. Some rural women will not be able to bear the expense of transportation and childcare they will need to obtain in order to seek prenatal care in another area, especially if they are uninsured or rely on government assistance. Closing maternity wards is not always a popular decision and two women in Orange County are now suing the Department of Health to reopen one maternity ward.
The Bon Secours Community Hospital’s maternity ward’s closure was approved on December 21, 2012 by the Department of Health. Bon Secours cited that there were not enough births occurring to sustain to sustain their competency and there was a shortage of qualified obstetrical staff. The issue had been studied for more than a year before the decertification of the hospital’s obstetrical services and four maternity beds was approved. In order to gain approval, Bon Secours agreed to pay for the transportation costs of the babies and mothers back to their homes and for the cost of taxi services for immediate family members to Orange Regional Medical Center for the next two years.
The plan to close the maternity ward was opposed by many community members, saying that it would affect the low income residents of Port Jervis who are not able to afford to travel to the two nearest hospitals that offer obstetric services. Given that the facility’s closure will make it more difficult for women to access high-quality maternity and delivery services, two women, Patricia Ann Landa and Sarah Fuller, have filed papers in Albany County Supreme Court on April 12, 2013.
The two plaintiffs recently gave birth and believe that they had been “adversely affected” by the decision to close Bon Secours maternity ward. Landa has said that she has experienced “substantial anxiety” due to the lack of access to local obstetric services. Fuller argued that just three days prior to the January 20, 2013 closure of the maternity ward, she was taken to Bon Secours but was then diverted to Orange Regional with barely enough time to deliver her child there.
It is hoped that a court decision will be made by the end of June.
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