Expecting mothers in Hastings will soon have to travel more than 20 miles to St. Paul to give birth.
Allina Health plans to move the labor and delivery service at Hasting’s Regina Hospital to St. Paul’s United Hospital and Children’s Minnesota starting Feb. 3, 2022. The move has raised the concerns of several families who have relied on Regina Hospital by the years.
“I can’t imagine having to go out on the freeway or being stuck in a snowstorm somewhere trying to get to Woodbury or somewhere else. It’s so scary,” said Melanie Reinardy, of New Tier, Minn. All 12 of her children were born in Regina Hospital from the years 1995 to 2012.
The declining number of births at the hospital — a 30 percent drop from 2015 to 2019 — prompted the decision, according to leadership at the Dakota County hospital.
‘I’M VERY DEVASTATED’
Allyssa Marie, who is due in April, is worried. Marie, who lives in Hastings, said the short excursion to Regina Hospital and its “small community” air was reassuring.
“When we found out, we were shocked and really upset,” Marie said. “I’m very devastated.”
Marie wants to keep her doctor, which method that she must deliver at United, where her doctor will most likely be working when the relocation happens.
“It doesn’t feel like I have options because if I want to stay with my doctor, who, of course, is great … then I don’t have an option. I choose her. I have to choose,” she said.
Delivering at United brings its own set of fears, she said.
“Especially with an current pandemic, just no familiarity. Knowing that we’re going to be in such a bigger setting is really a bummer,” Marie said. “already just being like outside of Hastings away from our family, it all feels awful.”
For expecting mother Elizabeth Otterness, the decision to move came as a shock.
“It was just definitely surprising to learn that they were closing,” she said. “I was kind of looking forward to being close (to home).”
ADDING TO THE LOGISTICS
The relocation requires expecting families to go by additional logistics and planning, such as finding an in-network facility for their insurance on short notice.
The next closest Minnesota hospital with a birthing center is the Mayo Clinic Health sets center in Red Wing, Minn. But the “Mayo Clinic is out of network for a lot of people,” Otterness said. “So a lot of it kind of comes down to your insurance provider too.”
Despite the drawbacks of the Allina Health move, Otterness, a registered nurse, said she understands the need for moving. In some regards, the relocation gives her an additional feeling of safety during delivery, noting the neonatal intensive care unit at the Mother Baby Center at United for when pregnancies are high-risk.
“I guess, kind of mixed feelings about it, just given the fact that I’m having twins. So part of me liked the idea of delivering at United, just for the fact that the NICU’s right there if it’s needed,” Otterness said.
CAN ANYTHING BE DONE?
On Oct. 6, Allina Health notified the Minnesota Department of Health in a letter of its plans. It is legally required to keep up a public hearing on the matter, though it will not change the decision. An online public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18.
“The decision is already made. And, we will not be reversing our decision based on the public comment,” Helen Strike, President of Regina Hospital and River Falls Area Hospital said.
There are three meaningful reasons that births have declined at Regina, she said.
“One is that people are choosing to go to other places. Two, the kind of care that we can deliver is fairly niche to a low-risk kind of mom,” Strike said. “And then the third one, the overall birth rate in Minnesota and in the nation is just dropping.”
While labor and delivery sets are moving, pre-and post-natal care and gynecology surgery sets will continue to be provided by the OB/GYN and family physicians at Regina Hospital, Allina Health Hastings Clinic and Allina Health Nininger Road Clinic.
The impacted staff will most likely be relocated into other locaiongs at Regina or in other Allina Health locations, Strike said.
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