116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
WASHINGTON - Washington County Hospital and Clinics will eliminate its obstetric unit next year due to a low birthrate and high costs, officials said.
According to the Nov. 9 news release from the hospital, located in Washington, the Washington County Hospital and Clinics board of trustees approved the change in late October to reinvest in other parts of the facility that sees more patients.
'It was a difficult decision,” said Dr. Stephan Schomer, interim chief executive officer of Washington County Hospitals and Clinics. 'They've had births there for 105 years, but it really came down to resources and how we can best serve the people in the community.”
The hospital saw an average 130 births each year, while costs for the unit increased 41 percent over the past five years, the news release said. At the same time, hospital officials said patient demand for the emergency room and inpatient services has continued to rise.
'With the relatively low birth, we were utilizing a lot of resources that potentially could help a greater number of people within the community,” Schomer said.
Schomer said officials will be upgrading the hospital's emergency room, which sees about 7,000 patients a year, and instituting a 24/7 hospitalist program, which would affect about 3,500 patients a year.
Amy Vetter, spokeswoman for Washington County Hospitals and Clinics, said obstetrics patients can continue to receive care through June 1, 2018.
Hospital officials said in the statement they will 'work with other providers to efficiently transition care for expectant mothers.”
Its two obstetrics physicians - who also are gynecologists - will stay on at the hospital to continue offering women's health care.
Schomer said he's uncertain if the physicians would offer only gynecological services or also provide prenatal care in conjunction with other area hospitals.
'We are looking at options on that right now,” Schomer said.
However, Schomer said hospital officials hope to increase its women's health care services.
This announcement from Washington County Hospitals and Clinics is in line with a trend across other rural parts of the country, where primary care physicians and specialists are hard to come by.
According to a 2013 study by the National Rural Health Association, there were only 30 specialists per 100,000 people in rural communities, compared to 263 specialists in urban areas. Among these specialties are obstetrics.
'It's very difficult for all rural obstetrics practices to keep going,” Schomer said.
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