Hospitals drop out of the baby business

    Mercy Suburban Hospital in Montgomery County is shutting down its maternity ward. A hospital statement cites high costs and a dwindling stream of patients that make the baby business unaffordable.

    Mercy Suburban Hospital in Montgomery County is shutting down its maternity ward. A hospital statement cites high costs and a dwindling stream of patients that make the baby business unaffordable.
    (Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sladesma/ / CC BY-NC 2.0)

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    Nineteen maternity units have closed across the Philadelphia region since 1997, according to the Maternity Care Coalition. JoAnne Fischer leads the non-profit group. She says the state needs to step in and make sure women have obstetric care close to home.

    Fischer: Either we need to make birth profitable, meaning that reimbursement has to be increased, or we have to have regulation that says that this is an essential community need, whether it’s profitable or not.

    Fischer says women from the Norristown area who are covered by Medicaid can wait as long as a month for an appointment with a prenatal care provider. She says the closure at Mercy Suburban could delay care even longer. But a spokeswoman for the region’s hospital association says nearby Montgomery Hospital should be able to meet the need.

    Priscilla Koutsouradis is communications director for the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council. Some obstetricians are opting out of the speciality because of the high cost of malpractice insurance, and Koutsouradis says that has created physician shortages.

    Koutsouradis: So hospitals have to look all the time for the best way to serve their community especially now with the economic meltdown and the repercussions of that. That leads to some tough choices.

    Mercy Suburban Hospital won’t provide obstetric services after June 30th.

    Wharton health economist Mark Pauly says large urban hospitals may be winning business because they have more experience and provide better care.

    Pauly: People may have a lot of affection for their community hospital but if they really know what the quality level is, they may wisely choose not to go there for most things.

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