Labor and Delivery Unit Closures in Rural Georgia from 2012 to 2016 and the Impact on Black Women: A Mixed-Methods Investigation

Publication
Maternal Child Health Journal

Abstract

Background. Obstetric provider coverage in rural Georgia has worsened, with nine rural labor and delivery units (LDUs) closing outside the Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area from 2012 to 2016. Georgia consistently has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the nation and faces increased adverse health consequences from this decline in obstetric care.

Objective. This study explores what factors may be associated with rural hospital LDU closures in Georgia from 2012 to 2016.

Methods. This study describes differences between rural Georgia hospitals based on LDU closure status through a quantitative analysis of 2011 baseline regional, hospital, and patient data, and a qualitative analysis of newspaper articles addressing the closures.

Results. LDUs that closed had higher proportions of Black female residents in their Primary Care Service Areas (PCSAs), of Black birthing patients, and of patients with Medicaid, self-pay or other government insurance; lower LDU birth volume; more women giving birth within their PCSA of residence; fewer obstetricians and obstetric provider equivalents per LDU; and fewer average annual births per obstetric provider. Qualitative results indicate financial distress primarily contributed to closures, but also suggest that low birth volume and obstetric provider shortage impacted closures.

Conclusions for Practice. Rural LDU closure in Georgia has a disproportionate impact on Black and low-income women and may be prevented through funding maternity healthcare and addressing provider shortages.

Anna E. Carson Daymude
Anna E. Carson Daymude
Master of Public Health
Joshua J. Daymude
Joshua J. Daymude
Assistant Professor, Computer Science

I am a Christian and assistant professor in computer science studying collective emergent behavior and programmable matter through the lens of distributed computing, stochastic processes, and bio-inspired algorithms. I also love gaming and playing music.

Roger Rochat
Roger Rochat
Professor of Global Health