Obstetrics Crisis Growing In Pa.

By Michael P. Tremoglie


The obstetrics crisis in Pennsylvania is growing. Last month, the maternity units at Brandywine Hospital near Coatesville, Chestnut Hill Hospital in the affluent Chestnut Hill section of  Philadelphia and Central Montgomery Medical Center in Lansdale, all closed.

So far, 17 maternity wards have closed in Philadelphia since 1997. According to one source, the waiting period for gynecologic care for a new patient in the five-county Southeastern Pennsylvania area is six to nine months. 

According to data from the state Health Department’s Bureau of Health Statistics, four of the eight remaining maternity units in this area operate above capacity. One was operating at 107.5 percent of capacity.

Continued On Page 4The American Medical Association (AMA) says Pennsylvania’s health-care delivery system is in an “extreme-level crisis,� citing shortages in key specialties, including OB/GYNs.

Also according to the AMA, as well as the Harvard School for Public Health, a rampant lawsuit industry and related liability insurance costs are the common denominators behind the wholesale closures of critical medical facilities as well as the physician shortages

When Chestnut Hill’s maternity unit closed Philip K. Howard, founder of Common Good, a non-profit, nonpartisan legal reform coalition issued a statement focusing the blame on tort reform.

“The announced closing of the Chestnut Hill Hospital maternity ward is yet another casualty of an unreliable medical malpractice system.  Restoring reliability to justice, such as with special health courts, is essential to restoring the trust needed for a healthy system of health care,� he said.

“Pennsylvania is in a crisis situation in terms of access to quality medical care,� said Wayne Oliver, health justice project director for the Center for Health Transformation, a nonprofit group founded by former Speaker Newt Gingrich, which studies health-care issues.  “The legal system is forcing hospitals to abandon certain ‘high-risk procedures’ including delivering babies.  When the legal system creates a healthcare shortage, something is seriously and morally wrong.�

“Pennsylvania is the poster child for the plaintiffs’ bar vision of America — sue the doctor, sue the hospital, and when they leave, support taxpayer-funded subsidies to hold onto the remaining cash cow,� said Dan Pero, president of the American Justice Partnership Foundation, a national nonprofit coalition of leading corporations, think tanks, foundations, trade associations, individuals and organizations advocating for legal reform at the state level.

Since 2000, medical liability insurance premiums in Pennsylvania have nearly tripled.  More than 12,000 physicians — particularly in key specialties — have left the commonwealth or retired during that period.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society predicts the potential loss of an additional 10,000 physicians within 10 years as the average physician age inches up along with the average statewide age — a “crisis point� for state health care.  Pennsylvania ranks near the bottom of all states for retention of young physicians — below 20 percent today — due to lower malpractice insurance costs elsewhere, among several factors.

Michael P. Tremoglie can be contacted at mtremoglie@thebulletin.us.

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