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By Alisa Kigar, SCH Communications Specialist
Dr. Meagan Weber, CEO, Scotland County Hospital, hosted administration from Putnam County (Unionville) Memorial Hospital and Sullivan County (Milan) Memorial Hospital to discuss their future plans of collaboration with women’s health and obstetrics. In the future, Dr. Elliot DeBlieck (Board Certified Family Practice- OB) and Sonya See, WHNP, will be providing clinics in these communities to serve their patients in the areas of OB and Women’s Health.
The number of hospitals providing obstetric services in rural areas has declined since 2014. This is particularly prevalent in low-income areas. Also, a higher proportion of rural patients rely on Medicaid, which doesn’t fully cover obstetric services. In 2020, almost half of rural community hospitals nationally did not offer obstetric care, according to the American Hospital Association. Access to obstetric care is a growing concern in rural American communities, given recent closures of hospitals in these areas. Unlike other Missouri labor and delivery wards that are closing, the team at Scotland County Hospital is eager to come up with solutions to provide obstetrics care at Scotland County Hospital and work collaboratively with their neighbors.
All three hospitals in northeast Missouri are designated as Critical Access Hospitals by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). Thus, these hospitals operate differently than for-profit or not-for-profit hospitals in metropolitan areas. Rural hospitals serve smaller populations than their urban counterparts, but have many of the same fixed costs, such as staffing emergency rooms, labor and delivery wards and surgery departments.
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), interview of stakeholders, they most often ranked two factors as most important among a list of seven factors potentially affecting the availability of obstetric care in rural areas. Specifically, stakeholders said:
Medicaid reimbursement rates set by states do not cover the full cost of providing obstetric services. This may mean particular financial losses for hospitals providing these services in rural areas, where a higher proportion of births are covered by Medicaid. Medicaid covered 50 percent of rural births in 2018, compared to 43 percent of births for the United States as a whole, according to the most recent analysis from the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission.
Recruiting and retaining providers is particularly challenging for rural areas, as they must compete with urban areas for a limited pool of providers to staff obstetric units that require a full range of maternal health providers, such as physicians and nurses, as well as anesthesiologists.
Dr. Weber said, “We feel very, very fortunate that Dr. DeBlieck and his family chose us. They had many options and yet, Memphis and Scotland County Hospital was their first pick. He’s an excellent doctor and when I asked him to do the outreach clinics in Milan and Unionville, he absolutely had no reservations and agreed.” Dr. Elliot DeBlieck recently joined the Medical Staff at Scotland County Hospital. He accepts patients of all ages. He is also accepting OB patients and he is currently in training for C-Section deliveries. Having been trained as an osteopathic physician, he also offers Osteopathic Manipulative Treatments (OMT). OMT is a hands-on technique that involves moving and manipulating a person’s muscles and joints to help diagnose, prevent, and treat certain conditions.