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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

Women's Healthcare in Lawrence County Got More Challenging with St. Vincent's Dunn Closure

LAWRENCE COUNTY - SEPTEMBER 21, 2022 - Last week, The CEO announced the closure of St. Vincent Dunn Hospital in Bedford, that will come on December 16th and the Maternity Ward of the hospital will stop delivering babies about December 1, 2022.


This presents challenges for women expecting in Lawrence County, who will be losing their only delivery ward.



According to Dr. Debrorah Craton who just recently retired after delivering babies for more than 47 years, the main reason most hospitals stop delivering babies is because of money.


The DISH (Disproportionate Share Hospital) payments distributed to hospitals will discontinue next year, leaving out a financial incentive for most hospitals to continue delivering babies. Especially, in counties with high number of lower income families.


This came after the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Health and Human Services ruling in 2004, to cut Medicare payments to safety-net hospitals. These hospitals qualified for additional Medicare payments if they served a low-income patient.


For hospitals struggling for cash, especially after taking a big hit from the expenses of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have a difficult time to staff and operate with OB/GYN.


OB DESERTS


For women who are pregnant things can get very scary soon for those women residing in Lawrence County as the only delivery room available is set to close.


Lawrence County women will have to drive more than 22 miles to the north to Bloomington, Orange County hospital to the south, Schneck Hospital to the east to find a delivery room.


Figure is 2018 Indiana Department of Health OB deserts in Indiana


For the women who have a high-risk pregnancy can be very scary in getting to a hospital. In rural Indiana more than a third of Indiana Counties now lack delivery wards.



In 2020, 33 out of Indiana's 92 counties did not have no hospital or the hospital did not have an OB/Gyn. In 2020, 89 out of 160 Hospitals did not have a maternity ward. In 2022, that number is now only 84 birthing hospitals.


" At St Vincent Dunn Hospital normally delivered approximately 250 babies a year, not only from Lawrence County but from Greene, Martin, and Orange Counties," added Craton.


In 2018, IU Health Orange County planned to stop delivering babies at the rural hospital but reversed its decision following an outcry of the community.


It should be noted that recently the U.S. News and World Report did list IU Health Bloomington and IU Health Paoli as "Best Hospitals for Maternity" with more than 2,700 that offer maternity services and this report identified 237 that made the distinction. The hospitals that performed well had fewer early deliveries, and fewer C - sections across the nation.


LACK OF HEALTHCARE PUTS LIVES AT RISK


Lack of healthcare can be dangerous for both the mother and infant.


Three years ago, Indiana's maternal mortality rate dropped to the 3rd worst in the nation, in 2019, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb put Dr. Kristiana Box, Indiana Department of Health Commissioner in charge of fixing the statewide issue.


Dr. Kristiana Box has worked as an OB/GYN for more than 30 years. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say that the less than 10 percent of OB/GYNS work in rural communities.


" Here in Lawrence County, we have previously received awards for keeping our mortality rates low," said Dr. Craton.


Lawrence County Indiana statistics from 2011 -2015


Maternal mortality rate refers to deaths due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth. The United States maternity mortality rate refers to or aggravated by pregnancy, childbirth, or within 42 hours of pregnancy.


The rate has not decreased in 2022, in Indiana the mortality rate is 43.6 per 100,000 making Indiana the third highest. The United State remains the highest for Maternity Mortality compared to 10 other developed countries.


" I do not expect St. Vincent to reverse its decision, but we do need to find a way to provide a clinic, or delivery area in Lawrence County," said Dr. Craton.


" What is equally concerning is the lack of ambulance service in the county to respond to a complicated birth, or at-risk birth then having to travel several minutes to a Delivery Department of the hospital,"


Dr. Craton stated with over 7,000 patients seen at St. Vincent Hospital the capacity at IU Health Bedford will be challenge in the next couple of months.


Lawrence County Zephyr will continue to monitor the developments in this developing story.


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