Birth and Law Suits

Bill Neinast

“Many rural hospitals told TORCH [Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals] their obstetrics units were losing $500,000 a year.  

“In addition, legislation stalled in the U.S. Congress that would identify areas in the nation with the greatest shortage of obstetricians so doctors could be placed there temporarily in return for having their medical school debts forgiven.  Such loan repayment programs help but aren’t  enough to meet the needs in rural Texas, McBeath said.

“It’s never an easy decision for hospitals to shutter a service they consider a moral obligation to provide, he said, ‘but if they don’t stop the bleeding, they’ll lose the hospital’.”

This excerpt is from the article “Labor Pains” by Mary Ann Roser in the November, 2018, issue of Texas Co-op Power. 

Roser also notes that 87 rural hospitals closed in the U.S. between 2010 and 2018.  Fifteen of those were in Texas, the most of any other state.

Part of the financial problem leading to the termination of birthing hospitals in Texas is that Medicaid covers more than half of the births.  According to Roser, Medicaid payments “haven’t kept pace with rising healthcare costs, hurting rural hospitals the hardest.”

The article also notes that of the ten hospitals offering birth  services in this area, only three are outside the metropolitan centers of Austin and Bryan/College Station.  Brenham, one of the three, is the only one located in one of the counties served by Bluebonnet Electric Co-op.  The other two are in Kyle and San Marcos.

One factor in the closing of hospitals and birthing centers around the state and locally is the looming possibility of law suits.  That was a factor in the recent  temporary suspension of birthing services in Baylor Scott & White, Brenham.

The hospital’s policy was to have an OB-GYN within 30 minutes of its birth facilities at all times.  There was no problem in Brenham so long as both Dr. Nobles and Dr. Campbell were available,  These two excellent OB-GYN specialists rotated being on call 24 hours a day on a weekly basis.

With the untimely death of Dr. Nobles, the hospital could no longer assure the availability of OB-GYN services at all times.  If a complicated birth resulting in a dead baby occurred during that time when qualified medical personnel were not available, the mother would regain consciousness in a room with a table full of lawyers’ business cards.

That would lead to a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the hospital in a matter of days.  

In order to protect itself under those circumstances, and to insure the best possible obstetric services, Baylor Scott & White had to temporarily close the birthing services in Brenham.

Then, at great expense, it re-established a system with a certified OB-GYN specialist within 30 minutes of the hospital at all times.

Shortly after that temporary suspension was fixed, someone complained that the birthing facilities in the decades old, one-story hospital in Brenham were not as nice as those in the new, multi-storied Baylor Scott & White hospital in College Station. 

Good Grief!  That is like comparing the burial plot of President and Mrs. George H. W. Bush at the Bush Library in College Station to the burial plots of the pharaohs in the ancient pyramids of Egypt. 

And why all this hub-bub about having a first class birthing center?  The magazine article that provided the first paragraphs of this piece included a discussion of the exploding number of births with the assistance of mid-wives.  Many of these occur at home, but some are in hospitals.

Actually, I was brought to my mother by a stork in a home without plumbing or electricity in the heat of August in central Texas.  This was really a stork delivery, as the family physician at the time was Dr. Stark.

That delivery in an extremely hot, unsanitary environment stunted my growth.  I never got above 6’3.  Wonder what kind of giant I would have become if I had been born in a luxurious accommodation like those described for the new facilities in College Station?

So here’s the perspective.

Criticism of someone or something is effective only if it is based on fact.  Going off on something with only half of the picture casts the critic in a poorer light than the subject.

With the number of hospitals being shuttered in rural Texas, the local media should be full of praise for Baylor Scott & White providing excellent care for all of us in central Texas.

Thank you, Baylor Scott & White.  You are doing an excellent job.



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