A hospital on the Mississippi Gulf Coast will suspend labor and delivery services April 1 because of a shortage of obstetricians, further decreasing health care access in a state that has seen other hospitals shut down birthing centers or intensive care for newborn babies.
Singing River Gulfport said in its announcement Thursday that hospital leaders hope the suspension of services will be temporary, WXXV-TV reported.
The move follows an announcement from a New Orleans-based health care system last May that it would stop delivering babies at a hospital it operates on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Ochsner Health System cited a relatively low number of births and the departure of the obstetrician who had delivered babies at Ochsner Medical Center-Hancock in Bay St. Louis.
Mississippi has the nation’s highest fetal mortality rate, highest infant mortality rate, highest pre-term birth rate and is among the worst states for maternal mortality. Black women are nearly three times more likely to die due to childbirth than white women in Mississippi.
Delta Regional Medical Center in Greenville closed its neonatal intensive care unit in July because of financial pressure. It was the only such unit in the impoverished Delta, and the closure meant lifesaving care for ill or premature newborn babies was about two hours away by car, at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
In October, Greenwood Leflore Hospital announced it was permanently closing its labor and delivery unit. The publicly owned hospital in Greenwood said it could not pay competitive wages and retain experienced nurses.
The publicly owned Singing River Health System was put up for sale months ago. The system said Thursday that employees at its Gulfport hospital can transfer to other locations as labor and delivery services are suspended. The system also has hospitals in Ocean Springs and Pascagoula.
Memorial Hospital in Gulfport still offers labor and delivery services.