Access to care for Mississippi moms and babies is shrinking

Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 7:39 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - There are now fewer places for Mississippi moms to deliver their babies. And a shrinking number of options if those babies are born in need of intensive care.

Doctors are worried about the outcomes for both moms and babies as their access to care options continue to shrink. Ochsner’s in Hancock County closed its labor and delivery unit this summer. But the Delta is the latest focus of concern.

“Attention expectant moms,” - that’s how this social media post let pregnant women in the Delta know they would not be able to deliver their baby at Greenwood Leflore Hospital.

“First thing that went through my mind was Wow!” said Chelesa Presley, Certified Lactation Specialist, and Doula, and Executive Director of the Diaper Bank of the Delta. “And going back to, this is why we need more and more community support.”

Chelesa Presley works with moms and families in the Delta. She’s seen firsthand how the communities are forced to step up and fill in the gaps.

“Now families who have trouble with transportation already, will now have to travel farther distances to get the services that they need,” added Presley.

President of the Mississippi chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Dr. Anita Henderson points out that there are already high rates of infant and maternal deaths in the Mississippi Delta. And in August, the Delta’s only neonatal ICU closed. She also puts the issue into perspective in this post-Roe world we’re living in.

“One thing just to remember, in the coming year, we may be looking at an additional 5,000 babies being born in Mississippi,” said Dr. Henderson. “So when we look at a preterm birth rate of 14%, well, you’re talking about maybe 700 More premature babies in our state. So we need to think about how are we going to take care of them. How are we going to provide access to care?”

Past president of the Mississippi State Medical Association Dr. W. Mark Horne says it’s yet another example of why the state must look at Medicaid expansion or some program that would improve healthcare coverage.

“We’ve got to fix this,” noted Dr. Horne. “And it’s not something we’re going to be able to just wish away, we’ve got to get to the root cause. One of the root causes is lack of access because of lack of insurance, either no insurance or under insurance, not just among those people who don’t work. But among the working poor people who go to work every day, and they can’t get access to care.”

Greenwood Leflore Hospital is asking pregnant women to plan for enough time to get to another hospital. The message references those services now being available at UMMC-Grenada. That is a more than 40-minute drive.

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