Media Tip Sheet: Many Rural Hospitals Close Maternity Wards

September 21, 2023

WASHINGTON (Sept. 21, 2023)--More and more pregnant women have to travel long distances when it comes time to give birth because the local hospital has shuttered their labor and delivery units, according to the Associated Press. Fewer than half the rural hospitals in the US now have maternity wards and that forces many pregnant women to travel for miles to get to the closest hospital with a delivery unit. 

The George Washington University has experts available to talk about all aspects of this crisis including the impact on maternal and child health, access to care and possible solutions. To arrange an interview with a GW expert please contact Kathy Fackelmann, [email protected] or Cate Douglass, [email protected].

Julia Strasser, is the executive director of the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health and an assistant research professor of health policy and management at the GW Milken Institute School of Public Health. She is an expert on reproductive health and can talk about access to maternal health services.

Amita N. Vyas  is an associate professor of prevention and community health and Director of the GW Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health. She can talk about the impact of maternal care deserts on pregnant women and their families. 

Anne Markus is a professor and Chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the GW Milken Institute School of Public Health. She can talk about the rise in maternity care deserts and the impact on maternal and child health. She can also discuss how lack of access to maternal health care disproportionately affects vulnerable populations.

Tarnisha Hemphill is an assistant professor of Nursing. She is helping lead the launch of GW Nursing’s Midwifery Program, which provides education on midwifery history, the scope of practice, and the profession of midwifery in the first two years of the program. Hemphill says midwifery is the answer to the maternity care crisis in the U.S. Additionally, her area of expertise is promoting diversity and equity in health care and improving prenatal care access to underserved populations with health disparities.

Suzan Ulrich, an associate professor of nursing and Director of Midwifery Education, has been a midwife since 1983 and an educator of nurses and midwives for over 40 years. Ulrich will also lead GW Nursing’s Midwifery Program, which Ulrich says emphasizes health equity and culturally congruent care. 

Both Hemphill and Ulrich can discuss midwifery care as a solution to maternal care deserts and the work they’re doing to prepare GW midwifery students to provide care in all birth settings as well as provide holistic, family-centered care for women throughout the pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period.