Low numbers drive rural delivery units to close

Callaway Community Hospital's labor and delivery unit closed in 2012.

One day after Moberly Regional Medical Center announced they would close their labor and delivery unit June 1, a different mid-Missouri hospital shares why they made the same decision two years ago.

Callaway Community Hospital's labor and delivery unit closed in March 2012. Chief Operating Officer Chuck Baker says high operating costs and low numbers drove the decision to close the unit.

"We had dropped below 50 babies a year in our unit when we closed it down. And that was just not a viable service for the hospital," Baker said.

"That's probably due to the fact that the standard seems to be...that people want to have their babies delivered by an OB/GYN. In a small, rural hospital like us, that's a hard expense to take on...and we just could not afford it. So our deliveries were done by family practice physicians."

Moberly Regional saw a similar decline in numbers, saying out of the 1,100 babies born to Moberly families in 2013, just 167 were delivered at Moberly Regional.

But fewer labor and delivery units means longer drives for pregnant women. While Baker says Callaway Community Hospital can handle imminent deliveries in emergencies, there are some things they can't do.

"We don't have the ability to do 24-hour C-sections here...if something happens in the middle of labor that the mom would need a C-section, we don't have a surgeon on call here that could perform those. So that determination has to be made ahead of time by the physician and nursing staff in our emergency room," Baker said.