More than a third (35%) of rural North Carolina hospitals don’t offer maternity care, according to a new report from the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform.
High-quality maternity care requires having 24/7 physician and nurse staffing, and that’s expensive for rural hospitals to continue providing, especially as they are losing money on other types of patient care, the report explains.
With hospitals increasingly scaling back or cutting maternity services for financial reasons, the report notes it now takes patients in rural North Carolina a median of 32 minutes to get to a hospital that provides obstetric care.
This lack of access has damning public health consequences. Mothers and babies in communities without obstetric care have a higher risk of death and complications, and they’re less likely to obtain adequate prenatal care and postpartum care, according to the report.
And with the strict new restrictions on abortion passed by Republicans this summer, more North Carolinians are remaining pregnant and in need of obstetric care, further straining the system.
The report notes urgent action is needed to address the crisis in rural maternal care, including by helping rural communities attract and retain a maternity care workforce and ensuring rural hospitals receive adequate funding.