Our Commitment to Rural Families
June 23, 2017
By: David Dick, HRMC President & CEO
One of the joys for those who work at a hospital, myself included, is the celebration of a birth. One of the hospitals I worked at played a chime every time a baby was born. Hearing of a new birth always brought me joy, no matter how my day was going. The miracle of birth reminds us of the miracle of our own lives, which is a good thing to be reminded about.
Yet, tragically, two-thirds of the counties in South Dakota no longer can provide this valuable service within their rural hospitals. In a recent study by the University of Minnesota, South Dakota and two other states were listed as having the worst access in the United States for local birthing services.
I am so thankful that our community has a board of directors and a committed team of medical professionals who have not only kept this service locally – but also have dedicated resources, specialized knowledge, and availability of their time to keep maternity services a top priority.
An alarming article, written by Dina Fine Maron, in the February 2017 edition of Scientific American, titled “Maternal Health Care Is Disappearing in Rural America” states, “Only about six percent of the nation’s OB/GYNs work in rural areas, according to the latest survey numbers from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Additionally, only 10 percent of Family Medicine physicians currently deliver. Yet 15 percent of the country’s population, or 46 million people, live in rural America. As a result, fewer than half of rural women live within a 30-minute drive of the nearest hospital offering obstetric services.”
When I was an administrator in a rural community in western South Dakota, the hospital there had to face the reality that it could no longer continue providing birthing care. The reason wasn’t just the cost of providing high-level care, it was also the lack of available staff. The challenge for both moms and the hospital is
that you can’t always anticipate exactly when babies will be born.
One person can’t do it – it takes a team of professionals, including doctors for the birth and newborn, as well as anesthetists and experienced nursing staff providing around-the-clock coverage.
In addition, we must also have the right facilities. And believe me, the right place for a birth isn’t on the side of a road, in a car.
That is why the HRMC board of directors recently decided to improve our birthing facilities at the hospital. An architect has been contracted to create a modern model for the current birthing unit, which will include more birthing and support rooms as well as a patient- and family-friendly design.
I want to thank everyone, including the community, for keeping our rural hospital on the list of facilities in South Dakota offering a full range of maternity services.
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