It’s getting harder to find hospitals where women can give birth in Michigan. The number of hospitals with obstetrics care has dropped significantly over the past four decades, and rural areas have been hit the hardest.
Since the 1980's nearly 100 hospitals have closed in Michigan. Only about 60 percent of those remaining have obstetrics units. In the past decade, 11 hospitals have stopped their obstetrics care.
"It’s about a third of Michigan counties ... where there’s no obstetrician," says Bridge Reporter Ted Roelofs.
Roelofs says money is the primary reason. Hospitals strapped for cash close their obstetrics unit in order to maintain other essential services.
Roelofs says the health consequences of women travelling far to get obstetrics services range from decreased prenatal care and a long, hurried drive on delivery day to premature births and sometimes death.
He says some women in Michigan drive as long as two hours to get the care they need.
"You could take that same drive and make it a three hour drive if it happened to be in January in a snowstorm," he says.
Roelofs says the federal government is working to attract more OB-GYNs to rural areas, and the University of Wisconsin has a program geared towards keeping doctors there as well.