Idaho hospital is going to stop giving birth. A reason? “Bills that criminalize doctors”

Bonner General Health, the only hospital in Sandpoint, announced Friday that it will no longer provide obstetric services to the town of more than 9,000 people, meaning patients will have to travel 46 miles for labor and discharge care. ‘childbirth.

The hospital’s board and senior leadership called the decision emotional and difficult, and cited the loss of pediatricians, changing demographics, and Idaho’s legal and political climate around health care. as reasons.

“We have done everything we can to avoid eliminating these services,” said Ford Elsaesser, chairman of the hospital’s board of directors, in a press release. “We hoped to be the exception, but our challenges are impossible to overcome now.”

Bonner General Health Hospital in Sandpoint, northern Idaho.

“Without pediatric coverage to manage neonatal resuscitation and perinatal care, it is dangerous and unethical to offer routine labor and delivery services,” the press release reads, citing months of negotiations. aimed at avoiding the result. “BGH has reached out to other active and retired providers in the community asking for help with pediatric call coverage without long-term durable solutions.”

The hospital said it would do everything possible to continue deliveries until May 19, but said that would depend on staff. He will continue to provide women’s health services at Sandpoint Women’s Health and work with Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene, which is about an hour from Sandpoint, to provide obstetric care.

Bonner General Health delivered 265 babies in 2022 and admitted fewer than 10 pediatric patients, according to the press release. This is a decrease from previous years that reflects a decrease in births nationwide and an older population moving into Bonner County.

Bonner General Health March 17, 2023 news release announcing that Sandpoint Hospital in northern Idaho will be suspending labor and delivery services.

Bonner General Health March 17, 2023 news release announcing that Sandpoint Hospital in northern Idaho will be suspending labor and delivery services.

Doctors could face felony charges and lose their licenses

The statement also said talented and highly respected doctors are leaving the state and recruiting replacements will be “extraordinarily difficult.”

Idaho has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country, with affirmative defenses in court only for documented cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the pregnant person. Doctors face felony charges and the revocation of their medical licenses for violating the law, which the Idaho Supreme Court in January ruled to be constitutional.

“The Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care,” the hospital’s press release said. . “Consequences for Idaho physicians providing the standard of care may include civil litigation and criminal prosecution, resulting in jail time or fines.”

Longtime OB-GYN Says She’s Leaving Idaho

Dr. Amelia Huntsberger, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Bonner General Health, said in an email to States Newsroom, a national nonprofit whose newsrooms include the Idaho Capital Sun in Boise, that she will be leaving soon. the hospital and the state because of abortion laws and the Legislature’s decision not to continue the state’s Maternal Mortality Review Board.

“What a sad and sad situation for our community,” Huntsberger wrote.

Linda Larson, who has lived in Sandpoint for 36 years and gave birth to her first child at Bonner General Health, said the community depends on the hospital for much of its health care services, including physiotherapy and routine blood tests.

“It breaks my heart to see what’s going on,” Larson said. “It’s a wonderful hospital; they have excellent care. I just can’t say enough good things about it.

Where to Get OB-GYN Care in Far North Idaho

Sandpoint Women’s Health will not be accepting new obstetrics patients effective immediately and has offered a list of referrals that patients can use for their care.

The other hospitals that can still accommodate patients in labor and delivery are:

  • Peaks OB/GYN practice in Libby, Montana

  • Heart OBGYN in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

  • Women’s Healthcare in Coeur d’Alene

  • Kootenai Clinic OB-GYN in Coeur d’Alene

  • Kootenai Clinic OB-GYN in Post Falls, Idaho

  • Newport Hospital in Newport, Washington

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