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New report details reasons why Maine maternity units have closed

Midwife Corina Finch examines the stomach of a pregnant patient at The Farm Midwifery Center, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, in Summertown, Tenn.
George Walker IV
/
AP file
Midwife Corina Finch examines the stomach of a pregnant patient at The Farm Midwifery Center, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, in Summertown, Tenn.

A newly finalized report on perinatal care in Maine says that maternity unit closures have been driven by workforce issues and declining births.

Co-author Kelley Bowden, a nurse and consultant, says a dwindling number of family medicine physicians who can perform C-sections also plays a role. To boost training, the report suggests the creation of a family medicine obstetrics fellowship in Maine.

"There is no OB fellowship program in Maine for family physicians. I think the closest one, last time I looked, was in Massachusetts," she says. "Having more providers who can offer the range of services means that birthing units could stay open and then people aren't driving long distances to get care."

Bowden says hospital leaders should also have open discussions with OB staff. She says many maternity unit closures are sudden, and involving staff earlier could lead to creative solutions to preserve units.

Several maternity units have closed in recent years — the most recent have been at York Hospital, Northern Maine Medical Center and Rumford Hospital.