Birth Injuries in Rural Hospitals: Unique Challenges and Legal Considerations

In rural hospitals nationwide, the decline in available labor and delivery services has become an urgent problem, one with dire consequences for both infant and maternal health. In the past few years, over 200 rural medical facilities have shut down their birthing centers, leaving more than half with no labor and delivery services to speak of. Due to this, pregnant women in these agrarian areas have to travel a considerable distance, sometimes more than an hour, to receive proper maternity care.

This reduction is more than a simple statistic; it is an ever-widening crack in the healthcare system that strips expectant mothers who reside in rural areas of their medical options and exposes them to greater risks. One of the more worrying consequences of such limited maternal care availability is the heightened risk of birth trauma and numerous other complications. The mounting closures of vital services in rural medical facilities over the last decade underscore a worsening crisis that is impacting an already vulnerable population.

In this situation, it is vital to understand your rights and legal options. If your child sustained a birth injury, you could be entitled to financial compensation. Contact the experienced Dallas birth injury lawyers at Rasansky Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your rights.  

Workforce and Financial Challenges Causing Closures

The issues associated with maternity care in a rural setting stem from multi-faceted problems. The staffing shortages and economic challenges faced by rural medical facilities affect their capacity for providing effective labor and delivery services. Proper maternity care demands a perpetual rotation of doctors and nurses present in the hospital in order to provide even the most basic level of care. Unfortunately, this causes labor and delivery services to cost facilities significantly more than other medical services. More than one-third of rural medical facilities lose money by offering maternity care. A consequence of this is that many doctors and nurses who work in rural labor and delivery are paid substantially less than those who work in urban hospitals, resulting in staffing shortages that have only grown in recent years.

Understaffing, decreased funding, and numerous other factors are all contributing to the increased risk of medical negligence occurring in rural hospitals. The situation leaves expectant mothers with no choice but to seek prenatal care from facilities that are understaffed or ill-equipped to handle childbirth. leading to preventable harm befalling both mother and child. Roughly 40% of all birth injury lawsuits contend that poor labor and delivery management was a major contributor to birth injuries. This issue often centers around the lack of medical providers available to watch for serious complications.

This economic tension, combined with a nationwide shortage of healthcare workers who are not keen to work in rural hospitals, has created an unsafe condition; one where retaining quality maternal care has become unmanageable.

A Need for Immediate Action

The reduction in rural labor and delivery services is more than a healthcare matter, it is a crisis of justice and health equity. The increase in serious birth injuries linked to a drought in local maternity care services highlights the importance of addressing this issue, particularly for families who are left to clean up the lifelong trauma they create.

In an attempt to combat this problem, the Center for Healthcare Quality & Payment Reform has recommended that medical facilities: 

  • Entice and retain a workforce dedicated to maternity care in rural locations with pay comparable to their urban counterparts
  • Hold insurance carriers responsible for not paying delivery service costs 
  • Improve training programs for rural doctors and nurses to minimize complications and mistakes

Without direct and immediate action, the health and well-being of infants and mothers in the rural United States will continue to face serious threats.

Why is There a Higher Rate of Birth Injuries in Rural Hospitals?

A publication from The National Library of Medicine released in 2003 shows that the birth injury rate in America ranges from 0.2 to 37 birth injuries for every 1,000 live births. The breadth of the range is most likely due to an insufficiency of population-based studies on birth injuries and inconsistencies in reporting. However, a far more recent study conducted by the Mayo Clinic reveals that infants born in country hospitals are at a considerably greater risk of birth trauma than those born in metropolitan hospitals. The study examined inpatient data collected from hospitals throughout Florida from 2013 to 2018. The data was collected from 125 inpatient medical facilities and also included data from 1,192,336 single births (no twins, triplets, etc.). After reviewing the data, researchers were able to conclude that: 

  • Rural hospitals were 3.99 times more likely to experience higher rates of birth injuries than urban medical facilities
  • Average-sized medical facilities were 2.11 times more likely to experience higher rates of birth injuries
  • Medical facilities that suggested safety culture was essential were more likely to maintain high birth rates.

Should I Be Worried About Giving Birth in a Rural Hospital?

The study performed by the Mayo Clinic study was intended to identify and improve healthcare disparities prevalent in rural regions of the country. Luckily, birth trauma is considered rare, and most infants are born without confounding complications. When a birth injury does take place, however, it is often accompanied by long-term and life-threatening repercussions. 

To alleviate concerns about the possibility of your newborn experiencing a birth injury in a rural hospital, keep the lines of communication open between you and your neonatal care team and any other healthcare professionals involved in your child’s gestation and birth. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Understanding pregnancy and childbirth might also help you take control of your pregnancy. Nonetheless, your birthing team is obligated to provide you with a certain standard of care, including knowing how to identify symptoms that indicate that a birth injury may occur and following medical protocols on how to prevent that birth injury from happening.

Birth Injuries and Medical Malpractice 

Far too many mothers and their babies are affected by birth traumas arising from medical negligence in overcrowded and understaffed rural hospitals. Every mom and baby, no matter their socioeconomic status or geographic residence, deserves reliable, quality medical care and support.

If your infant was injured during the birthing process, filing a medical malpractice birth injury lawsuit can help you and your family get the justice and financial compensation you need and deserve while bringing the negligent medical facility to account for you and your child’s pain and suffering. If you or your child have experienced a birth trauma, at a rural hospital or otherwise, the experienced Dallas birth injury lawyers at Rasansky Law Firm specialize in medical malpractice birth injury cases. Call us at (214) 617-1886 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation. 

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Note: The information that was utilized in this post was gathered from the use of secondary sources. This information used has not been confirmed or independently verified. If you locate any information that is not correct, please contact our firm as soon as possible so that we can make the appropriate corrections. If you find any information that is false, we will remove or correct the post immediately after it is brought to our attention.

Disclaimer: As a valued member of the Dallas community, Rasansky Law Firm’s goal is to improve the safety of all residents in the great state of Texas. These posts should not be viewed as a solicitation for business and the information included herein should not be taken as medical or legal advice. The photos used in this post are not representative of the actual crash scene.

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