GLEN DALE - The Oct. 1 closing of the New Generations Birth Center at Reynold's Memorial Hospital will leave expectant mothers in Marshall, Wetzel, Tyler and Monroe counties with longer drives and fewer options for quality prenatal and birthing care.
A 2011 study by the West Virginia Perinatal Partnership shows Wetzel and Tyler counties as areas that are at least 30 minutes away from a medical facility that offers either prenatal or birthing services.
Residents of Tyler County will especially be hit hard with the closing.
Kathy Myer, nurse manager at the New Generations Birth Center at Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale, checks medical records during her work day. The center is set to close Oct. 1 leaving residents of Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler Counties even fewer choices for prenatal care.
Photo by Sarah Harmon
The closest birth services for residents of Middlebourne are Ohio Valley Medical Center and Wheeling Hospital in Wheeling or Camden Clark Memorial Hospital in Parkersburg, all with 50 minute drive times.
East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry, United Hospital Center in Clarksburg and Fairmont General Hospital have the next shortest drive times at 53 minutes, 1 hour, and 1 hour and 15 minutes, respectively.
Women in Monroe County can also drive about 53 minutes to Marietta Memorial Hospital in Marietta, Ohio.
Ann Dacey, a recently retired nurse coordinator for the WVPP, said women in counties without birthing services often do not have the means to travel long distances for care, especially if there are problems that requires numerous trips.
She said although wealthier women often will travel to metropolitan areas for the birth of their child, poorer women often rely on local hospitals to get the care they need.
"Ultimately, we want to have people close to prenatal care centers," Dacey said. "It's not right that they have to drive. But, once a center closes, it's hard to open it again."
According to Amy Tolliver, director of the WWPP, many women in areas without birth centers are turning to home births, not out of choice, but out of necessity.
She noted these women are still at risk if there are any complications during the birth that would require hospital equipment and expertise.
Wheeling Hospital spokesman Gregg Warren said the hospital has seen an increase in the number of prenatal patients from Marshall County since Reynold's announced the closing of New Generations.