Traveling nurses are expensive, so two Wyoming hospitals cut pregnancy services

Elise Mascorro gave birth to her baby in Rawlins last February.

“My experience was amazing. I was never really someone who liked doctor’s offices or wanted to go. And I really liked going to the doctor,” she laughed.

It was Mascorro’s first child and she has had problems with her pregnancies in the past. So, she appreciated having an OB/GYN nearby, helping her.

But over the past two weeks, Memorial Hospital of Carbon County in Rawlins announced that they would no longer provide labor and delivery services in June. It was the second hospital to make the decision in a month. South Lincoln Hospital District in Kemmerer also cut these services.

“It’s heartbreaking to see something so necessary for our community taken away,” Mascorro said. “Especially with the harshness of our winters. I mean, there are days when our roads are closed, and you’re trapped for a few days at a time.”

Stephanie Hinkle, director of marketing and communications at Memorial Hospital of Carbon County, said providing these services has always been difficult because it is a staff-intensive service. Nurses and doctors need to be able to perform and assist with childbirth and/or caesarean section at all hours, because you never know when a baby will arrive.

“It’s very, very difficult to recruit staff as a whole, especially in rural areas like this,” Hinkle said. “And so someone as specialized as OB/GYN, it’s even harder to recruit those types of people.”

And the pandemic has compounded the problem. Staff were needed to deal with surges of COVID-19. For example, companies that provide traveling nurses across the country recruit nurses who earn four to five times more money than if they were on staff at a hospital. It was an attractive option and resulted in nurses leaving their home hospitals.

“Currently, as of now, we’re spending $100,000 a week on roving posts,” Hinkle said. “And as you can imagine, that erodes an institution’s cash position very quickly.”

This led Rawlins and Kemmerer to discontinue their labor and delivery service.

“And that was kind of a choice that we ended up having to make because nobody wants to live in a community without a hospital,” Dr. Chris Krell said. He has been a family physician at South Lincoln Hospital District in Kemmerer for 26 years.

He and another family doctor performed caesarean sections and emergency deliveries. He said on average they deliver less than 50 babies a year. But the pandemic left them with just two nurses in the emergency room.

“They can’t commit to covering the operating room 24/7/365. And with the loss of the ability to do emergency surgery, I dare not even try. to do a vaginal birth here. Because that vaginal birth has the potential to turn into needing an immediate C-section. And then we’re an hour from Evanston,” Krell said.

Evanston is the closest hospital with labor and delivery services in Kemmerer while Rawlins is over an hour and a half away from services – potentially putting women in real danger. Eric Boley of the Wyoming Hospital Association said that’s unfortunately the nature of health care in rural Wyoming.

Stephanie Hinkle, from Rawlins Hospital, said their solution was to try to recruit more nurses.

“The SET program provides opportunities for nursing students to receive tuition funding while seeking their degree,” she said. “In turn, upon completion of a nursing program, these individuals then enter into a two-year employment contract with Carbon County Memorial Hospital.

Kemmerer has also tried this and Dr Krell said it would be a good idea for the state to develop a partnership with a nursing school similar to the WAMI program where physicians must commit to working in Wyoming.

For Elise Mascorro, having good health care in small rural towns should be essential because it can help attract people to this city.

“It’s inconsiderate for the people of this city. It’s not like we’re a city of 500 people and that’s not necessary. Our population is over 8,000 people and for the first time people want to stay in Rawlins to have their children,” she said.

just rawlins announced a partnership with Laramie Hospital where OBs will travel to Rawlins twice a week for prenatal appointments. But deliveries must be made in Laramie, at half past one, except in an emergency.