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Idaho hospital to halt labor and delivery services citing ‘political climate’ and doctor shortages

An Idaho hospital will halt labor and delivery services, citing doctor shortages and the “political climate”, the hospital announced on Friday.

“Highly respected and talented physicians are leaving. Recruiting replacements will be extremely difficult,” Bonner General Health, located in the town of Sandpoint, said in a news release.

Pregnant women who used Bonner General, a 25-bed hospital, will now have to travel to hospitals or birthing centers in Coeur d’Alene or Spokane to give birth.

In 2022, doctors delivered 265 babies at Bonner General and admitted fewer than 10 pediatric patients, the hospital said.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade says abortion bans have added another challenge to rural hospitals that have struggled to keep their doors open and their facilities fully staffed and functioning.

Hospitals across the country have sounded the alarm that states with strict abortion laws risk losing staff or doctors to other areas. According to the Associated Press, in Indiana, one of the first states to restrict abortion following the Supreme Court’s decision, the Indiana Hospital Association said the state was “creating an atmosphere that would be perceived as hostile to physicians.”

Idaho has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country. According to the Associated Press, in a brief filed in August 2022 in support of a Justice Department lawsuit against Idaho’s abortion ban, medical groups argued that doctors of Idaho are forced to choose whether to violate state law or federal law.

In a report released last September, Pew revealed that Idaho was one of six states in which authorities can prosecute health care providers for performing abortions.

“The Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for nationally recognized medical care as the standard of care. The consequences for Idaho physicians providing the standard of care may include civil litigation and criminal prosecution, resulting in jail time or fines,” Bonner said in his press release.

CBS News’ requests for additional comment from the hospital were not returned on Saturday.

In addition to Idaho’s legal and political climate, Bonner General also cited “the emotional and difficult decision” to shut down labor and delivery services due to staffing shortages and changing demographics.

Since 2005, at least 190 rural hospitals have closed or converted their operations, according to figures compiled by the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina.

“We have done everything we can to avoid eliminating these services,” Ford Elsaesser, chairman of the board of Bonner General Health, said in a statement. “We hoped to be the exception, but our challenges are impossible to overcome now.”

Often people in rural areas have to travel hundreds of kilometers to access health care. In 2019, Pew Research published a study showing that rural Americans live an average of 10.5 miles from the nearest hospital, compared to 5.6 miles for those living in suburban areas and 4.4 miles for those living in areas. urban.


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