BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — This week, two local hospitals are discontinuing their obstetrician programs for pregnancy and maternal care.
Princeton Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham and Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster are closing their OB departments Wednesday, October 25. Monroe county hospital is also set to close their labor and delivery unit in November.
Dr. Elizabeth Sahlie, a general pediatrician at Simon Williamson Clinic Pediatrics on the Princeton Baptist’s campus said the elimination of OB services at three Alabama hospitals will force several women to drive 60 to 90 minutes for care, some without reliable transportation.
“That puts you at risk,” said Dr. Sahlie. “Then if something, let’s say you go into pre-term labor and you’re that far away from the hospital, that’s a really dangerous situation for a woman.”
According to a recent March of Dimes report, 27.9% of women in Alabama have no birthing hospital within 30 minutes compared to 9.7% in the U.S.
Alisha Bowen who will deliver her first baby, Samuel, in December is now part of this group. In Monroe County, she’s 90 minutes away from the nearest birthing hospital. Bowen told CBS42 the loss of OB services is scary for their community.
“With a lot of emergency situations with obstetrics, you need to be cared for within an hour,” said Bowen. “An hour doesn’t leave time to get to Mobile, and so, your life is literally at the mercy of the training of an ER doctor.”
Bowen is not alone. Belinda Dorrance who worked at Monroe Country Hospital for 40 years said about 80 deliveries were scheduled between November 15 when they’re stopping services and the end of the year.
In a recent social media post, Monroe County Hospital said they are transitioning some OB nurses to the ER. Appropriate equipment will be made available.
“When patients present to our emergency room, we have to take care of them adequately or transfer them to an appropriate facility, but we have to do an intake on them,” said Dorrance.
Bowen said she feels abandoned by the community she’s served for years.
“Now at a time when I’m most vulnerable, I’m disappointed,” said Bowen. “In Alabama, we’re supposed to love babies, and it doesn’t feel like mothers and babies are being loved when our hospitals are closing labor and delivery.”
Monroe County Hospital sited physician shortages as a main reason for closing their labor and delivery doors. Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association said financial issues are likely another reason for the other two hospitals shutting down there OB services.