RENO, Nev. (KOLO) – Ask any two longtime native Renoites where they were born and at least one is likely to point to St. Mary’s.

The hospital shared that task with Washoe Medical Center–now Renown–for more than a century. So news that would no longer be happening came as a shock to some.

St. Mary’s announcement cited declining numbers of patients, staffing and anesthesia issues as reasons. Dr. John Packham of UNR’s medical school’s Office of Statewide Initiatives says it’s as simple as that, a business decision.

“I think there is a business case why they shut it down. I’ll take them at their word on that. I’d also point out that we’re seeing this trend across the country.”

Staffing shortages and other considerations are forcing hospitals to make decisions like this. “When you think about when you staff a labor and delivery unit. If that volume goes down it becomes an even trickier proposition toi keep in profitable and at the end of the that’s what will keep those lines open.”

But St. Mary’s decision does raise a question. Does one less hospital delivering babies mean a shortage? Do we have enough capacity? He says yes.

“That’s enough capacity for this town. Yes, you’ve lost a little bit of choice, but we still have the ability to deliver babies in this town.”

St. Mary’s decision leaves the task to Renown, which for the moment has the only neonatal ICU in town, and Northern Nevada whose new Sierra campus in south Reno offers labor and delivery and says its neonatal ICU will come on line early next year.

Bottom line, Dr. Packham says that’s adequate coverage for a town our size, but there is a shortage elsewhere–in our rural communities.

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