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Maternity units to close at two local Virginia hospitals

Rosalind Helderman

Two small Virginia hospitals announced this week that they will be closing their maternity wards. When the General Assembly was debating the state budget, we talked some about the struggles of hospitals across the state to make ends meet with state funds shrinking, particularly smaller rural hospitals that serve large numbers of patients on Medicaid. In the past eight years, six Virginia hospitals had closed their maternity wings.

Now, add Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital in Lexington and Bedford Memorial Hospital to the list. CSJH has announced that it will close its unit April 30; Bedford will close its practice Oct. 1.

Birthing units are often the wings most hurtful to a hospital's bottom line -- more patients on Medicaid (which reimburses less than the cost of care) combined with the need for 24/7 coverage, even if the hospital only delivers a few babies a week or less.

Both hospitals cited declining numbers of births at their hospitals, noting that many women in their communities have been choosing larger facilities. But, of course, they are choosing larger facilities that are also farther away -- with their closure, pregnant women will not have the choice of a close-to-home birth.

"We held on as long as we could," said Thomas McNamara, president of the Lexington hospital, in a statement. "We are the last Critical Access hospital in the state to offer OB services, but we simply don't have enough patients and physician participation to continue."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  April 1, 2010; 3:27 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate  
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Home birth, anyone?

Posted by: millionea7 | April 1, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

high risk patients shouldn't have a home birth and would be better served by a local hospital.....

Posted by: anon67 | April 1, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

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