Why Rural Maternity Wards Are Disappearing

“At the height of the Great Depression, Windham Community Memorial Hospital was built in northeastern Connecticut with generous donations from ordinary local residents. A month after newly elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his Inaugural Address declaring that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” the hospital opened its doors. On April 25, 1933, the first baby was delivered there.

Eighty-seven years later—at the height of the Covid pandemic—the hospital shut down its labor and delivery ward. The story of how Windham Hospital stopped delivering babies is emblematic of a nationwide crisis in rural maternity care. The US health-care system is under tremendous financial and political pressure to become more cost-effective. In obstetrics, this often means a preference for consolidating deliveries at urban hospitals with sophisticated technology and a large medical staff. This consolidation comes at the expense of women in rural areas.”