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Henry County Medical Center to suspend obstetric services

Henry County Medical Center

A western Tennessee hospital announced last week that it would suspend medical services related to pregnancy and childbirth later this year.

Henry County Medical Center in Paris, Tennessee, will suspend obstetric services “for the foreseeable future” on Sept. 1.

In a release, HCMC CEO John Tucker said he recommended the suspension of obstetric services to the hospital’s board of trustees last week. He called the suspension a “very difficult decision.”

“With the financial struggles that have been in place at our organization for the past several years, HCMC is on the verge of financial failure and would not be able to sustain beyond year-end had this difficult decision not been made,” Tucker said.

The hospital plans to reorganize the Paris Women’s Center to offer only gynecological care. According to the hospital’s press release, HCMC will work to “expand relationships with neighboring facilities and physicians” to connect patients with obstetric care providers.

Tucker said the rural northwestern Tennessee hospital is not alone when it comes to ceasing certain medical services.

“Over half of the rural hospitals in the country have already been forced to make this decision, so while this is very unfortunate, it has become almost the rural in rural America and not the exception,” the hospital CEO said.

A study released in May by the national policy group Center for Healthcare Quality & Payment Reform found that 55% of rural hospitals in Tennessee did not offer OB services. That’s before the Paris hospital made its decision. That same study found that only 46% of rural hospitals nationwide offer labor and delivery services and over 200 rural hospitals across the country have stopped delivering babies in the last decade.

In 2022, the Health Resources & Services Administration — an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — designated Henry County as a Low Income Population Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) in primary care. HPSA designations are used to identify areas, populations or facilities experiencing a shortage of healthcare services.

The Health Resources & Services Administration scores primary care HPSAs based on a variety of factors including population-to-provider ratio, percent of population below a certain federal poverty level, and travel time to the nearest source of care. These scores are used by the federal agency to determine which areas are priority areas for more healthcare providers.

Higher scores generally indicate a greater need for physicians. On a scale of 0 to 25, Henry County received a score of 16 for primary care. The federal health administration indicated Henry County would need more than two additional, full-time equivalent practitioners to achieve the target ratio.

Hannah Saad is the Assistant News Director for WKMS. Originally from Michigan, Hannah earned her bachelor’s degree in news media from The University of Alabama in 2021. Hannah moved to western Kentucky in the summer of 2021 to start the next chapter of her life after graduation. Prior to joining WKMS in March 2023, Hannah was a news reporter at The Paducah Sun. Her goal at WKMS is to share the stories of the region from those who call it home. Outside of work, Hannah enjoys exploring local restaurants, sports photography, painting, and spending time with her fiancé and two dogs.
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