When Ripon Medical Center (RMC) stopped delivering babies in 2017, it was far from the first critical-access hospital in Wisconsin to discontinue the service.

   Apparently, though, it may have been the last — or at least, the most recent to do so.

   Thus, when a report was released July 17 highlighting challenges facing rural obstetric service in Wisconsin, RMC found itself in the spotlight.

   “In the past 10 years, 11 additional rural hospitals stopped offering delivery services, the most recent being 2017, representing a 24% decline in the past 10 years,” reads the report “Obstetric Delivery Services and Workforce in Rural Wisconsin Hospitals” by the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health (WORH), an advocacy group. “One recent study found that nationally, the number of counties with hospital-based delivery services declined by 9% from 2004-2014. While the parameters of these measurements are different, both suggest that Wisconsin has had significant decreases in access to hospital-based obstetric delivery services.”

   This report then became the basis for a story in the Wisconsin State Journal that mentioned Ripon Medical Center in its first sentence. That story went on to be used by numerous other newspapers thereafter.

   Though RMC inadvertently became the poster-child for hospitals without obstetric services, is RMC truly done delivering babies?

   That’s been the question since Dr. Steve Sheppard retired in 2017.

   Ripon Medical Center, as well as its parent company, SSM-Agnesian HealthCare, would argue the answer always has been, and continues to be, “no.”

   But other factors may conspire to make recruiting a new obstetric doctor difficult.

Read the full story in the Aug. 1, 2019 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.