Feb 8, 2024 - News

Most of Virginia's rural hospitals don’t offer labor and delivery services

Share of rural hospitals without labor and delivery services
Data: Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform; Note: Rural hospitals are those not located within a metropolitan area defined by the U.S. OMB and Census Bureau; Map: Axios Visuals

Nearly 70% of Virginia's rural hospitals don't offer maternity care.

Why it matters: That means pregnant patients are having to travel longer distances to deliver their babies, increasing the risk of pregnancy complications and death.

The big picture: Challenging economics and labor shortages are forcing rural facilities to scale back or cut labor and delivery services nationwide while state abortion bans are driving up demand for care, writes Axios' Jason Millman.

Driving the news: Hundreds more rural communities are at risk of losing maternity care because of these financial challenges, according to a new report from the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform.

  • Over 200 rural hospitals have already stopped delivering babies in the past decade.

By the numbers: Of the 29 rural hospitals in Virginia, 20 do not have maternity wards, which offer prenatal, delivery and postpartum care.

  • The average driving time to a hospital that has one is 41 minutes — which is higher than most states in the U.S., per the report.
  • The average distance to a birthing hospital for rural patients in Virginia is 29.2 miles — nearly three times higher than those in urban areas, according to a 2022 report from March of Dimes.

Yes, but: The gap is much worse in some localities.

  • In far southwest Virginia in Lee County, the closest maternity ward is 64 miles away — 14 times more than Richmond's 4.4 miles.
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