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Blue Ridge Regional Hospital could be latest victim of maternity services cutbacks

Mission Health CEO Ron Paulus confirmed the company is looking at ending some ob/gyn services at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine, shifting them to McDowell Hospital about 35 minutes away. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Another rural mountain hospital could lose its labor and maternity services.

Mission Health CEO Ron Paulus confirmed the company is looking at ending some ob/gyn services at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine, shifting them to McDowell Hospital about 35 minutes away.

Paulus said the hospitals had the third- and fifth-lowest birth totals in the state: 173 births at Blue Ridge last year and 187 at McDowell.

A lack of 24/7 surgical coverage at Blue Ridge is another reason the company is considering the move, Paulus cited in a memo obtained by News 13.

By comparison, Mission Hospital delivers "more than 4,000," according to the same memo.

Katie Stockton was born in Spruce Pine, delivered at Blue Ridge Regional, and, in a few weeks, will deliver her first child there.

She lives 5 minutes away.

"That's nerve-racking to me," said Stockton. "That would be very hard. As an expectant mother, it would be hard to make that 30-minute drive on top of the 30-minute drive from work. An hour out of the way to have to go to the doctor, that would be terrible. Especially if I was in labor, that would be really terrible!"

Paulus said a new McDowell Hospital slated to open near the site of the current one will feature "five state of the art birthing suites, three inpatient/outpatient operating rooms, including a dedicated C-section room."

The company plans to make a final decision on whether to move the services in the coming months.

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