Rendell: No obstetrics 'crisis,' but problems

By Stacey Burling
Inquirer Staff Writer

There is no obstetrical crisis in the Philadelphia area, Gov. Rendell’s office has concluded.

But there are problems, and “trends suggest that health-care systems may face significant challenges in finding OB-GYNs to deliver the babies born in the five-county area,” Donna Cooper, Rendell’s policy secretary, wrote in a letter to Philadelphia political leaders who had asked her office to look into the issue.

Since 1997, 13 area hospitals have stopped delivering babies. Hospital and political leaders have labeled the trend a “crisis.” They’re seeking extra funding and help with malpractice-insurance costs.

The governor’s office found:

The number of births in the five counties remained stable between 2001 and 2006, about 51,000 to 52,000 a year.

The number of maternity beds fell 5.6 percent from 2001 to 2006, but occupancy rates suggested there was additional capacity.

The number of practicing OB-GYNs was stable from 2004 to 2006, but 18 percent of Southeastern Pennsylvania doctors surveyed in 2006 said they planned to stop delivering babies in 12 months.

The letter said the governor’s office was “exploring options to provide relief” for the cost of malpractice insurance. The report found that it cost twice as much – $128,903 a year – to insure a Philadelphia OB-GYN as a doctor practicing outside urban areas.

Rendell’s proposed health plan would expand the use of nurse midwives. The letter said his office wanted to boost Medicaid enrollment among uninsured women and was looking at whether a rule that hospitals give 60 days of notice before closing an obstetrics unit was adequate.
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