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Labor and Delivery in Rural Hospitals, some good news, some cause for concern.

According to an article written about the potential closure of Labor and Delivery at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital by Dr. Philip Mitchell on June 7, 2017, "At our current volume, we expect well over 200 deliveries this year." Sadly, Labor and Delivery was closed at our hospital at the end of September that year. Then in 2019 our hospital system was sold to HCA.

Dr. Mitchell examining an expectant mother prior to the closure of Labor and Delivery at BRRH in 2017

How interesting now in 2020 to see a couple of stories about Labor and Delivery in rural hospitals, one story very encouraging about the reopening of a maternity center in Chatham County, NC, and the other story more concerning about the potential for emergency births at rural hospitals without obstetrics units. (Use the blue links to read the two stories.)

The Chatham County article mentions that population growth in that region has been attracting more young families, bringing in more young mothers that wanted to be able to deliver closer to home rather than have to make the hour or so drive to hospitals with labor and delivery units. Another interesting number to note, the article says that as many as 120 babies are expected to be delivered in the first year of the new maternity center, well below the projection Dr. Mitchell made of 200 births at BRRH in 2017.

Every time members of SEARCH have had conversations about labor and delivery with our hospital system representatives, we have pushed for the concept that if our area experiences population growth in the future, labor and delivery here should be reinstated here. Because at this point, three years after the closure of our local labor and delivery, our communities have been lucky there have been no "bad outcomes" experienced by expectant mothers from Mitchell County or Yancey County as they traveled to the hospital of their choice for the birth of their child.

This year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been hearing about house sales in our area being way up. Here's hoping that will lead to full time population growth for our area that would justify the reinstatement of Labor and Delivery at BRRH someday. That's an "outcome" for which SEARCH will continue to advocate.



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