A second hospital in Idaho announced it will stop providing labor and delivery services for pregnant women in the coming months, citing staffing shortages and other challenges.
“It has been increasingly difficult and unsustainably expensive to recruit and retain a full team of high-quality, broad-spectrum nurses to work in a rural setting where nurses need to be proficient in many different fields,” reads a statement from Valor Health last week.
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The hospital plans to cease delivery services by June 1. The next closest hospital is a 40-minute drive away in Caldwell, the Idaho Statesman reported.
Valor Health expects to deliver fewer than 50 babies this year, far below its historical average of 66 babies per year, according to the hospital.
The hospital is the second to announce an end to labor services within a two-week span. Earlier in March, Bonner General Health in Sandpoint partially blamed the state’s new abortion laws for the closure of its maternity ward.
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Bonner General plans to stop accepting new obstetric patients and stop delivering babies by May 19. The hospital cited declining birthrates, loss of pediatricians and Idaho’s “legal and political climate” as reasons for the closure.
“Highly respected, talented physicians are leaving. Recruiting replacements will be extraordinarily difficult,” reads a statement from the hospital.
The Idaho Legislature “continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care,” the statement continues. “Consequences for Idaho Physicians providing the standard of care may include civil litigation and criminal prosecution, leading to jail time or fines.”
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Last year, Idaho’s governor signed a near-total ban on abortions in the state, opening the door for doctors to be imprisoned up to five years for performing an abortion. The law makes exceptions in cases where a doctor deems the procedure necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman, or in cases of rape or incest that were reported to police.
While Valor Health does not cite state laws as the reason for its recruiting difficulties, one doctor said attracting new physicians has been “virtually impossible since late summer 2022, which should be setting off alarm bells throughout Idaho.”
“Family medicine and generalist OBGYN physicians, who manage the vast majority of pregnant patients in our state, are also signaling a desire to limit their practice, retire early or leave Idaho,” Dr. John M. Werdel, medical director of women’s health care at St. Luke’s Health System, wrote in a recent op-ed.