Listen to this article North Idaho Hospital Stop Delivering Babies Due To Issues
Bonner General Health, the only hospital in Sandpoint, Idaho, has announced that it will no longer provide obstetrical services to the city of more than 9,000 people. This decision means that patients will have to drive 46 miles for labor and delivery care moving forward.
Idaho Hospital Explains Decision to Stop Delivering Babies
In a news release, Ford Elsaesser, the hospital’s board president, stated that the hospital had made every effort to avoid eliminating obstetrical services. However, he said that the hospital’s challenges had become impossible to overcome. The hospital’s board of directors and senior leadership called the decision an emotional and difficult one, and cited several reasons for it, including:
- A loss of pediatricians
- Changing demographics
- Idaho’s legal and political climate around health care
According to the press release, Bonner General Health delivered 265 babies in 2022 and admitted fewer than 10 pediatric patients. This decrease reflects a nationwide trend of declining birth rates and an older population moving to Bonner County.
Idaho Hospital Collaborates to Stop Delivering Babies Due to Issues
Although the hospital will no longer provide obstetrical services, it will continue to provide women’s health services at Sandpoint Women’s Health. Additionally, the hospital will collaborate with Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene, which is about an hour from Sandpoint, to provide obstetrical care.
Sandpoint Women’s Health will not accept new obstetrics patients effective immediately and has offered a referral list for patients to use for their care. The hospital has said that it would make every attempt to continue deliveries through May 19, but that this will depend on staffing.
Impact on Physicians
The hospital’s news release stated that highly respected, talented physicians are leaving the state and that recruiting replacements will be “extraordinarily difficult.” Dr. Amelia Huntsberger, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Bonner General Health, said in an email to States Newsroom that she will soon leave the hospital and the state because of Idaho’s abortion laws as well as the Idaho Legislature’s decision not to continue the state’s maternal mortality review committee.
Idaho Hospital Cites Climate for Stopping Deliveries
Additionally, physicians in Idaho face severe consequences for violating the restrictive abortion ban. They may face felony charges, as well as the possibility of having their medical license revoked. These strict measures were upheld by the Idaho Supreme Court in January, making it even more challenging for healthcare providers to offer reproductive care. It is worth noting that affirmative defenses are only available in court for documented cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the pregnant person is at risk. This means that access to safe and legal abortion services is limited for many people in Idaho.
The hospital’s news release also pointed out that the Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care that is nationally recognized as the standard of care. The consequences for Idaho physicians providing the standard of care may include civil litigation and criminal prosecution, leading to jail time or fines.
Idaho Hospital Faces Community Backlash Over Stopped Deliveries
Linda Larson, who has lived in Sandpoint for 36 years and delivered her first child at Bonner General Health, said that the community relies on the hospital for much of its health care services, including physical therapy and routine blood work. She expressed sadness and heartbreak over the hospital’s decision, calling it a “wonderful hospital” with “excellent care.”
The decision by Bonner General Health to cease providing obstetrical services has significant implications for the community of Sandpoint and its neighboring areas. It reflects the challenges that hospitals face in providing quality care in an environment of changing demographics, staffing shortages, and restrictive legal and political climates. The hospital’s collaboration with other health providers will help to ensure that patients still have access to necessary obstetrical care, but the loss of local services will undoubtedly impact the community.Read more: North Idaho Hospital Stop Delivering Babies Due To Issues