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Closure of Rural Birthing Units Associated with Increased Costs / Worse outcomes 1 in 5 Rural Women have to travel to the city for Birth

July 9, 2013

Shawville : A recent government report shows that 1 in 5 rural women now have to travel to the city for birth. The report finds that these women, unlike those who have the ability to deliver at the small town hospital, have increased rates of prematurity which dramatically increases costs.

The report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) shows that more than 17% of women from rural areas travelled longer than two hours to reach the hospital where they delivered their babies, compared with less than 1% of urban women. Some women are uprooted from their families for 2 to 4 weeks to deliver elsewhere.

Dr Braam de Klerk, president of the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada says "Babies suffer when rural hospitals close their obstetrical wards. The pennies saved are foolish when you consider the risk to health and increased dollars of caring for those premature babies. Provincial governments should support rural women with their need for local care."

In its recently published Joint Position Paper on Rural Maternity care, the SRPC recommends that "Women who reside in rural and remote communities in Canada should receive high-quality maternity care as close to home as possible."

International studies show that closing a rural maternity unit doesn't save the system money but actually increases costs. Studies have shown that such closures can cause an overall doubling of costs, primarily from increased costs associated with increased prematurity rates.

A study from Washington State by Nesbitt found " Women from communities with relatively few obstetrical providers in proportion to number of births were less likely to deliver in their local community hospital... Women from these high-outflow communities had a greater proportion of complicated deliveries, higher rates of prematurity, and higher rates of neonatal care than women from communities where most patients delivered in the local hospital."

In addition, evidence from Australia shows that closure of rural maternity units lead to poor outcomes. " ... there was a high proportion of low birth-weight infants, stillbirths and neonatal deaths" in towns where maternity services had been withdrawn.


For more information contact:
Lee Teperman
Society of Rural Physicians of Canada
Phone: 8196477054

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