According to the latest update from the March of Dimes, more than 5.6 million women live in counties with no or limited access to maternity care services in the U.S. The March of Dimes defines maternity care deserts as counties with limited or no access to birthing hospitals, birth centers offering obstetric care or obstetric providers.
Just recently, the March of Dimes published a set of 52 comprehensive reports examining maternity care deserts and other factors that impact access to care, health outcomes and unique barriers for all families in each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Since the March of Dimes began publishing data on maternity care deserts across the U.S. in 2018, the data has consistently shown that access to maternity care continues to decline and more resources are needed to make maternal health a priority.
Impacts of labor and delivery closures and rising maternal mortality rates
Unfortunately, the lack of maternal care in the U.S. has continued to increase – particularly in rural areas. Since 2011, 217 hospitals in the United States have closed their labor and delivery departments, according to a report issued by the healthcare consulting firm Chartis earlier this year.
At the same time, maternal mortality rates in the U.S. are continuing to rise, with Black women continuing to be the most affected.
“As an organization solely focused on obstetrics and women’s health care, our core mission is all about elevating care and improving outcomes for pregnant women,” said Dr. Mark Simon, Chief Medical Officer for Ob Hospitalist Group (OBHG). “We are deeply concerned about the access to care and maternal mortality issues in the U.S. We know that our clinicians have a unique opportunity to make a difference and play an important part in the solution to improving maternal healthcare in our country.”
How OBHG is working with rural and smaller delivery hospitals to keep care in the community
One of the ways OBHG is making a difference helping rural or low-volume delivery hospitals keep their doors open is through OBHG’s Maternal Health Access Solutions, configured to fit the hospital’s particular needs. These solutions are different than a traditional OB hospitalist program at a larger or higher delivery volume hospital and often include options such as OB/GYN clinic coverage, part-time physician coverage and/or certified nurse midwife or physician assistant support. Here are some of the ways OBHG is helping low delivery volume and rural hospitals with women’s health and obstetrical challenges across the United States.
“The continued increases in maternal mortality are alarming,” said Dr. Amy VanBlaricom, OBHG Chief Clinical Officer. “There isn’t a simple solution to rapidly improving the situation, either. Multiple factors continue to play a role. Access to care is a growing issue in the U.S. with widening maternity deserts that disproportionately impact women of color. OBHG is working closely with rural and small volume delivery hospitals to enable them to provide access to life-saving care within their communities.”
Impacting maternal mortality and implicit bias
OBHG is also continuing its intense focus on addressing the drivers of the increasing maternal mortality rate. These drivers include access to care, cardiovascular conditions, hemorrhage, hypertensive disorders, implicit bias and maternal mental health. Read more here about how OBHG is responding to the continued rise of maternal mortality rates.
Recently, OBHG released a new report revealing OB hospitalists are delivering unbiased care and that clinical outcomes at hospitals with OB hospitalists significantly outpace national performance measures across all races. This report was launched through OBHG’s efforts to analyze quality metrics by race to evaluate racial disparities of patients under the care of OB hospitalists. This was the first report of its kind to look at OB hospitalist outcomes by patient race.
“There’s a growing maternal crisis in the U.S.,” said Dr. Simon. “Women deserve to have healthy pregnancies and healthy births no matter where they live. We have to work together on solutions and make maternity care a priority.”
Please get in touch to learn more about how OBHG is helping hospitals in maternity care deserts and responding to the continued rise of maternal mortality.