New research from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health shows obstetric units in rural hospitals are closing their doors, due to difficulty in staffing, low birth volume, and financial burdens. As the annual birth volume decreases, additional rural hospitals will be vulnerable to obstetric unit closure in the future.
The study findings were published in the Health Services Research. Doctoral student and lead author, Peiyin Hung M.S.P.H., and her colleagues gathered hospital discharge data as well as conducted interviews to identify factors associated with unit closures between 2010 and 2014. The analysis found 7.2 percent of rural hospitals in the study closed their obstetric units. These units were typically small in size and located in communities with fewer resources including lower family income, fewer obstetricians and fewer family physicians.