CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Officials at Cape Regional Medical Center said in an email Tuesday that the facility would no longer provide maternity/obstetric care as of Sept. 10.
That’s five days sooner than previously stated.
In July, Susan Staeger, the hospital’s public relations manager, confirmed the hospital would no longer provide the service, citing a lack of physicians. In the Tuesday announcement, Staeger said Cape May County’s only hospital would work closely with other health service providers.
“Cape Regional Health System’s leadership is working closely with Shore Medical Center and AtlantiCare to develop a detailed plan for them to provide maternity services to the residents of Cape May County,” she wrote. “All obstetricians who are in practice in Cape May County currently provide perinatal and maternity care at either AtlantiCare or Shore Medical Center.”
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For women at the north end of the county, it can be closer to travel to an Atlantic County hospital than to travel to Cape Regional. But for someone in the southern end of Cape May County, it can be a 40-minute ride to Somers Point, more than twice the distance than to Cape Regional.
It is an increasingly common situation. A federal report found the number of OB-GYNs is likely to decrease even as demand increases, while the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found in 2017 that half of the counties in America did not have a single OG-BYN. The organization stated that overwhelming workloads were leading to OB-GYNs burning out, and other studies have found that practicing OB-GYNs are getting older and facing a more intense workload.
Things are even worse in the South, the West and Midwest. A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in March 2021 projected the Northeast region would have an adequate number of women’s health care providers, while envisioning significant deficits in other regions.
But those statics may be of little interest to expecting families in Cape May County.
“County emergency medical services are aware of the need to take women in labor or with pregnancy-related conditions to AtlantiCare or Shore Medical Center,” Staeger wrote. “The Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative is providing resources to assist with communication and education to the community and access to transportation to hospitals that can provide maternity care.”
The emergency department at Cape Regional remains available for life-threatening emergencies, but Staeger said for any pregnancy-related concerns that cannot be managed in their personal obstetrician’s office, patients should plan to go directly to AtlantiCare, Shore Medical Center or another hospital.