A collective decision has been made by the Highland District Hospital Board of Governors and the Highland Health Providers Board of Directors to discontinue obstetrics services from both organizations over the next two months, allowing transition time for expecting mothers.
Physicians for Women will no longer accept new obstetrics patients effective June 30, 2022, and births at Highland District Hospital will come to an end by Aug. 21, 2022.
Physicians for Women will continue gynecology services to new and existing patients at its office, with all surgeries and procedures remaining at Highland District Hospital.
Out of 35 critical access hospitals in Ohio, Highland District Hospital is among eight still offering obstetrics services. Rural obstetrics service lines have long been nationally identified as at-risk because of declining birth rate trends, and physician and provider recruitment issues in rural areas, the hospital said in a news release.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), over 10 years 165 rural obstetrics programs nationwide closed while their parent hospital remained open.
“In addition to having a dedicated and experienced obstetrics staff, we have been very fortunate to have physicians who chose to devote their careers to ensuring an obstetrics program existed within our community. We have given every effort and exhausted many resources to recruit physicians that were as dedicated to rural health care. Unfortunately, that process has been very trying for both organizations for quite some time,” said Tim Parry, president and chief executive officer of Highland District Hospital.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as of 2020 there was a shortage of more than 8,000 OB/GYN physicians nationwide, with that number projected to rise to 22,000 by mid-century, Parry said.
“Simply put, the demand for OB/GYN physicians is exceeding the supply,” he said.
While births have decreased annually, needs across both organizations have increased in other service areas.
“Our employees are a top priority for us, and we are committed to making sure they remain employed with us. There will be no jobs lost to this restructure,” Parry said. “We have had many service areas grow tremendously over the last few years, increasing staffing demands across both organizations. We will focus on expanding our capacities within those areas to better meet the community need.”
Current obstetrics patients delivering prior to Aug. 21, 2022, will be contacted directly to arrange continued services through the end of their pregnancy both at Physicians for Women and Highland District Hospital.
Obstetrics patients who are projected to deliver after Aug. 21, 2022, will be contacted directly by the Physicians for Women staff who will help transition care to another provider.
“This is not an easy day for either organization. Our staff and physicians worked tirelessly to ensure our community received the highest level of maternity care,” Parry said. “They have been part of countless milestone moments for families within our community. We are proud and grateful for their dedication to each delivery experience through the years. As an organization we have taken pride in offering this service to our community, even amidst challenges that might have presented.”
Information for this story was provided by Highland District Hospital.