A shrinking number of rural Texas hospitals still deliver babies. Here’s what that means for expecting moms.

Marissa Evans:

Letha Stokes has a “very, very heavy heart” since Medical Arts Hospital ended its labor and delivery services on Dec. 6.

The hospital CEO said it took three years of studying, penny pinching and what-ifs before she and the hospital board of directors decided the Lamesa-based facility in northwest Texas should not deliver babies anymore.

Until recently, Medical Arts Hospital delivered an average of 100 babies per year, the majority of them covered by Medicaid, the joint state-federal health care insurer for the very poor. But the hospital also lost an estimated $500,000 a year due to the program’s low reimbursement rates. That wasn’t sustainable.

Stokes said ending deliveries means Medical Arts’ patients will have to drive 40 to 60 extra miles to hospitals in places like Seminole, Snyder or Lubbock.

“This was a very difficult decision,” Stokes said. “… There is a risk either way, if you deliver babies or if you don’t deliver babies.”