BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (AP) — A New Orleans-based health care system will stop delivering babies after this month at a hospital it operates on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Ochsner Health System started managing Hancock Medical Center in 2013. Then in April 2018, the hospital in Bay St. Louis was renamed Ochsner Medical Center-Hancock.
Hancock County acting administrator Jimmie Ladner told the Sun Herald this week that Ochsner had notified the county of its decision to close the labor and delivery department. The health system cited a relatively low number of births and the departure of the obstetrician who had delivered babies at the hospital.
“The county is certainly disappointed any time any service is removed from the hospital,” Ladner said.
Ladner said providing labor and delivery services is not required by Ochsner’s lease agreement with Hancock County, so county officials had no power to block or approve the hospital system’s decision.
Tim Riddell, Ochsner’s regional medical director for the Mississippi Gulf Coast, said in an email to the newspaper that the health system “must continually evolve our service offerings to better meet those needs today and in the future."
“While we will no longer be offering labor and delivery services at Ochsner Medical Center-Hancock, we remain committed to providing women’s and children’s care," Riddell said.
Waveland Mayor Mike Smith had not yet heard about the closure of the department when he was contacted by the Sun Herald.
“My oldest child was born at Hancock Medical,” Smith wrote in a text message. “I know that it is difficult enough getting to the hospital if it’s close by when you’re in labor, but having to drive an additional 30 minutes or more further would make that even more difficult.”
Ochsner Medical Center-Hancock is the only hospital with labor and delivery services in Hancock County, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health. The nearest hospitals offering those services are two in Gulfport. One of those is about 17 miles (27.4 kilometers) from the hospital in Bay St. Louis. The other is about 29 miles (46.7 kilometers) away.