PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- After several Philadelphia hospitals closed their maternity units in 1997, infant mortality rates increased by 50 percent in three years, researchers say.
Study leader Dr. Scott A. Lorch of the Center for Outcomes Research at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said the mortality rates subsequently leveled off to the same rate as before the closures.
However, pediatric researchers said the findings underscore the need for careful oversight and planning by public health agencies in communities experiencing serious reductions in obstetric services.
Between 1997 and 2007, 9-of-19 obstetric units closed in Philadelphia, resulting in 40 percent fewer obstetric beds, Lorch said.
Other research suggested increased malpractice insurance costs and reduced reimbursements were the primary reasons for the closures.
"Previous research on patient outcomes after hospital closure have focused on the impact of closing rural hospitals or single hospitals in a large metropolitan area," Lorch said in a statement. "Our study was the first to systematically analyze the effects of large-scale urban obstetric service reductions on the outcomes of mothers and babies."
The study, published the journal Health Services Research, said compared to the two years before the closures, the difference in neonatal hospital mortality increased by 49 percent in Philadelphia from 1997 to 1999, while the difference in all perinatal mortality increased by 53 percent, compared to the control groups.
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