Lessons for providers and hospitals from Philadelphia's obstetric services closures and consolidations, 1997-2012

Health Aff (Millwood). 2014 Dec;33(12):2162-9. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2014.0136.


The Affordable Care Act is triggering an increase in hospital consolidation and mergers. How other hospitals respond to these disruptions in supply could influence patient outcomes. We examined the experience of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania (coterminous with the city of Philadelphia), where thirteen of nineteen hospital obstetric units closed between 1997 and 2012. Between October 2011 and January 2012 we interviewed twenty-three key informants from eleven hospitals (six urban and five suburban) whose obstetric units remained open, to understand how the large number of closures affected their operations. Informants reported having confronted numerous challenges as a result of the obstetric unit closures, including sharp surges in delivery volume and an increase in the proportion of patients with public insurance or no insurance. Informants reported adopting a number of strategies, such as innovative staffing models, to cope with the added demand brought about by the closure of nearby obstetric units. Informants emphasized that interhospital communication could mitigate closures' stresses on the health care system. Our study supports the need for policy makers to anticipate reductions in supply and monitor patient outcomes.

Keywords: Maternal And Child Health; Organization and Delivery of Care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery, Obstetric / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Facility Closure
  • Health Facility Merger / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Insurance, Health
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, Hospital / supply & distribution
  • Philadelphia