Rural mothers-to-be may have a harder time finding a hospital to give birth in

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A hospital in Grand Marais may no longer offer planned deliveries, a growing trend among rural hospitals throughout Minnesota and the country.

The Cook County North Shore Hospital's board will decide Friday whether it will halt planned deliveries, after receiving a report from its insurer that it doesn't meet expected standards of care for those services, WTIP reported.

Kimber Wrallstad, the hospital's administrator, told the radio station it's not actually related to the quality of the care, but some things the hospital lacks – including access to an operating room for emergency cesarean sections within 30 minutes.

The closest hospital equipped to handle emergency c-sections is in Duluth, more than 100 miles away, the Duluth News Tribune says. Adding an operating room is in the hospital's future, but having the proper staff to handle an emergency c-section would cost the hospital roughly $1 million more per year, WTIP noted.

There were 41 births in Cook County in 2013 – 26.8 percent were c-sections, according to the state Department of Health. In 2013, five babies were born at Cook County North Shore Hospital, statistics show.

Facebook group shares care ideas

There is a public meeting Wednesday at the Cook County North Shore Hospital for people to share their thoughts before the board makes its decision.

Some shared their ideas on the Facebook event page, including mirroring birthing centers with surgical options in other small communities or bringing a prenatal and postpartum doula program or birth home to the area, among others.

If the hospital ends its OB services, it will still offer emergency deliveries. Prenatal and postnatal care will also still be available at the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic in Grand Marais, reports note.

Options for rural births are shrinking

A study by the Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis found a low number of births, staffing issues, financial costs and the rising cost of malpractice insurance premiums are major contributors to hospitals closing their birthing facilities.

Between 1985 and 2000, the number of hospitals that offered OB services dropped 23 percent nationally, the study said. A 2014 report by the University of Minnesota found 20 percent of rural counties offered OB services, while 15 percent of all births occurred at rural hospitals.

Other rural hospitals in Minnesota have also stopped offering planned deliveries.

The Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital announced in December that it will be closing it's birthing facility. John Fossum, the hospital's chief executive, told the Star Tribune that it's "rooted in the movement of surgical-related services to the big city," which concerns him.

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