Hospitals in rural areas rewriting the rules
When Dr. Jeff Alling, a family physician, moved to Wise County more than 20 years ago, he was one of only two doctors in the rural North Texas community qualified to deliver babies. Since then, he has delivered more than 2,000.This policy is absurd. It is excluding experienced doctors in favor of those with less experience but more training. They should let the family physicians deliver the babies and have the specialist on call if there is an emergency that the doctor can't handle.
“I’ve got 12 little babies that I delivered their mothers 18 or 20 years ago, so I’m kind of on my second generation,” he said.
But Alling no longer has a place to deliver babies in the county. The community hospital in Bridgeport that he helped found in 2008 merged its obstetrics unit with the Wise Regional Health System in Decatur in March. That hospital, where Alling delivered babies before he left for Bridgeport, instituted a policy in 2009 that allowed physicians to deliver babies only if they had undergone a three-year residency program specializing in obstetrics and gynecology.
“The purpose of that was looking ahead to the potential in the growth of our market,” said Steve Summers, the chief executive of Wise Regional.
For more than a decade, Summers has worked to shift Wise Regional toward a “specialist model.” He said it was an effort to meet the quality-of-care standards set by its urban affiliate, the Baylor Health Care System, which operates hospitals nearby that also allow only qualified obstetricians to deliver babies.
Although he acknowledged that family physicians usually receive a rotation of obstetrics training during their residency, Summers said the hospital board decided not to allow exceptions to its policy.