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Idaho doctor who worked in closed maternity ward says abortion ban hurt recruitment • Colorado Newsline

Vaseline 4 weeks ago

A hospital in a rural area outside Idaho’s capital, Boise, closed its labor and delivery and neonatal intensive care units on April 1, citing declining birth rates and staffing problems.

West Valley Medical Center is the third facility to close its maternity services in Idaho since the state enacted a near-total abortion ban in August 2022. The county where the medical center is located had more than 3,300 births in 2022, and West Valley sees 45,000 outpatient visitors in a year. The entire medical center has 112 beds.

The law subjects doctors to two to five years in prison, fines and the loss of their medical license for providing abortions, even in emergency situations, at least until the U.S. Supreme Court issues a final ruling on the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. application in Idaho. Oral arguments in that case will take place on April 24.

A February report from a coalition of Idaho physicians found that the state has lost 22% of its practicing gynecologists since the ban took effect, and 55% of its maternal-fetal medicine specialists. The first closure occurred in Sandpoint at Bonner General Hospital in March 2023. The hospital cited the political climate and staffing issues as reasons for the closure in its announcement.

West Valley did not specifically cite the abortion ban or other political issues as a reason for the closure, but Dr. Ted Colwell, who worked there full-time and as a retiree for many years until its April 1 closure, told States Newsroom he believes that was the case. a factor. Colwell describes himself as “pro-life,” but he is concerned about the state of medical care in Idaho.

His responses to questions have been edited for clarity and brevity.


States Newsroom: What is your experience with West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell?

Dr. Ted Colwell: I moved here after residency training and began practicing in 1982 at what was then called the Caldwell Women’s Clinic, which started in 1969. I was the fourth doctor in the group, and I have been working in that practice for 36 years. although it has gone through several names and personnel changes. West Valley was always owned by HCA Healthcare and we had a general obstetrics practice. Someone asked me how many deliveries I’ve made over the years, and that’s about 7,000.

Dr. Ted Colwell (courtesy of Ted Colwell)

S.N: When did you retire?

Colwell: I retired in 2016. Because our group is accredited by the American Institute of Ultrasound Medicine, they needed someone to take on the role of reading ultrasounds for the clinic, so I’ve been doing that since retirement, but it’s usually from home.

S.N: What was it like when you found out about the closure?

Colwell: I knew we were struggling, but when the announcement came I was shocked. Caldwell is quite a funny hospital, rural in a sense, but we had excellent maternity care and neonatal intensive care there. The hospital serves not only Caldwell, but much of the surrounding areas, so it is not a small rural hospital, it is a small regional hospital. St. Lukes and Saint Alphonsus (the two main hospital systems in the state) spread their hospitals west at the same time, so in a sense the West Valley became surrounded, but that being said we still have a very loyal patient population. I’m just sorry nothing could be done to keep services running in West Valley. I think they tried everything they could.

S.N: What do you know about the staffing issues that partially led to the closure?

Colwell: I have been more or less involved in some recruitment activities and interviewing some potential candidates. Last year we had five potential candidates and due to different situations, all five decided to go somewhere else. Idaho used to be a state that attracted OBs for its outdoors, family values, and recreation: it’s a good place to live. But I think the overturning of Roe v. Wade had an impact, even though Idaho was not known for its high abortion rate. I know abortions were done here, and some doctors provided them, but the vast majority of doctors I’ve known over the years did not do elective terminations. It didn’t really become an issue for me until this whole issue with the hospital came to a head.

People will suffer under this law, and it makes me angry that politicians are standing in the way of evidence-based medicine. I don’t think they should make it a criminal offense to take good care of women who need medical care and treatment.

What I heard from others was that those interviewed over the past year expressed concerns about the legal environment and concerns about prosecution, which led them to not accept our job offer. These concerns came from those relatively fresh out of training. On the other hand, I wouldn’t care, and I would do the right thing for the patient anyway. I think that comes with more than forty years of experience.

S.N: Why do you think the closure of the labor and delivery unit is a cause for concern?

Colwell: I feel like women and mothers bring families, children and spouses to the hospital, and if you lose that, there’s a risk of losing a lot of services in the hospital. People will drift to other facilities further away to receive care. And if you come to the emergency room, if you have a condition where it’s gynecological and there’s no one in the hospital to take care of that, I think that puts the hospital in a bad situation. If a patient is told mid-pregnancy, “You’re going to have to find someone else,” can they find someone else first and foremost? And secondly, can the other clinics that are still active accommodate these patients? It will put pressure on the entire system.

S.N: You described yourself as “pro-life.” Tell me what the difference is for you when it comes to this form of medical care.

Colwell: There comes a time when you have to make a medical decision for the life of the mother. It takes care of patients. People will suffer under this law, and it makes me angry that politicians are standing in the way of evidence-based medicine. I don’t think they should make it a criminal offense to take good care of women who need medical care and treatment.

S.N: What else would you like to add about the current maternity care landscape in Idaho?

Colwell: I wish the lawmakers passing these laws would think about the consequences of their actions. I think they’re shooting from the hip, is my feeling, and they’re trying to make a statement, and I haven’t seen any real push (from organizations) to educate legislators about what the hell they’re doing. Why not consult with those involved? I mean, my god.

I hope West Valley can survive this. And it probably will be. But in the meantime, it will affect a lot of people.