MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Three hospitals in the state will soon be closing their maternity wards: Shelby Baptist, Princeton Baptist and Monroe County Hospital.
The news is leaving some women with limited options and long drives to receive care.
That includes Alisha Bowen, who is preparing to welcome her son Samuel Ian in December. She says she’ll now have to drive an hour and a half to USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Mobile for care, despite receiving her previous check ups at Monroe County Hospital, a five-minute drive from home.
“I feel disappointed, I feel like my plans have gone completely out the window,” Bowen said.
Bowen said she’s lucky she can make the drive but knows not everyone can. She’s worried about what this means for others who are expecting in similar situations.
“In Alabama, we’re supposed to love babies, and it doesn’t feel like mothers and babies are being loved when our hospitals are closing labor and delivery,” Bowen said.
Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Don Williamsons says one of the main challenges behind the recent closures is the financial situation hospitals are in.
Williamson said that uninsured adults make up about 15% of the state, and in rural areas, it can be as high as 20%.
“The analogy I would use is if you’re a hotel, and 20% of the people who stay in your hotel don’t pay their bills, you’re not going to be in business very long. Hospitals don’t have the ability to turn people away,” Williamson said.
Williamson said without closing the coverage gap, the state will see more hospitals cut back or close.
Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels said the state should consider expanding Medicaid, as doing so would improve health outcomes for thousands of Alabamians.
“We can’t afford not to do it. I think we need to have real conversations, especially about women’s health,” Daniels said. “When they have access to adequate health care, it gives them an opportunity to do frequent checkups, preventative care. That way, from a business standpoint, it makes perfect sense.”
Daniels said he thinks these closures may bring a renewed sense of urgency to this issue next legislative session, which starts in February.