Pregnant people in parts of northwestern Wisconsin will have to travel farther to give birth after the Mayo Clinic Health System announced it will end labor and delivery services at hospitals in Barron and Menomonie.
In a press release Thursday, the health system said labor and delivery services at the Mayo Clinic System’s Northland location in Barron ended Aug. 26. Those services will end at Mayo’s Red Cedar location in Menomonie Jan. 1, 2023, and patients will transition to Mayo’s hospital in Eau Claire.
Mayo said it has been “aggressively recruiting” OB-GYN staff to fill vacant positions for the past two years.
“These relentless efforts have been unsuccessful in filling these critical physician openings, reflecting a worsening OB-GYN physician shortage across the country,” said the release.
A spokesperson for the Mayo Clinic Health System said no administrators were available Friday for an interview on the announcement.
The Mayo release quoted Mayo Clinic Northwest Wisconsin Regional Vice President Dr. Richard Helmers as saying administrators are grateful for contributions from staff who have provided labor and delivery services that will be ending in the rural locations.
“Our teams in Barron and Menomonie will continue to provide exceptional, high-quality prenatal and postnatal care, along with gynecological services to best serve the health care needs of our patients,” said Helmers. “Mayo Clinic Health System is not leaving Barron nor Menomonie. We have thriving clinical and surgical practices at both locations. Hospital-based labor and delivery are the only services transitioning.”
Patients delivering babies in Barron, Menomonie and the surrounding areas will now have to travel up to an hour away.
OB-GYN staffing difficulties in rural areas is not a new phenomenon. A July 2017 report by the American Medical Association found that 20 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties had no OB-GYN.
A 2017 study by the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center found the percentage of rural counties in the U.S. that lacked hospital obstetric services grew from 45 percent in 2004 to 54 percent in 2014.