NATIONAL NEWS

Idaho hospital stops baby delivery in part due to politics

Mar 23, 2023, 11:10 AM

FILE - People walk to the Idaho Capitol Building for the Boise March for Life rally, Saturday, Jan....

FILE - People walk to the Idaho Capitol Building for the Boise March for Life rally, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. A rural hospital in Sandpoint, Idaho, will stop delivering babies, citing recently passed state laws criminalizing medical care, among other reasons. (Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman via AP,File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman via AP,File)

A rural hospital in northern Idaho will stop delivering babies or providing other obstetrical care, citing a shifting legal climate in which recently enacted state laws could subject physicians to prosecution for providing abortions, among other reasons.

Bonner General Health in Sandpoint will discontinue obstetrical services in mid-May. It also cited a decreasing number of deliveries and a loss of doctors among other factors in its decision.

Those pregnant in the city of about 9,000 — with an average annual snowfall of about 60 inches (150 centimeters) — will most likely have to travel about 45 miles (70 kilometers) to Coeur d’Alene for care, or to hospitals farther away in Idaho, Washington and Montana.

The decision to discontinue providing obstetrical services was emotional and difficult, hospital officials said in a news release.

“We have made every effort to avoid eliminating these services,” Ford Elsaesser, Bonner General Health’s Board president, said in the release. “We hoped to be the exception, but our challenges are impossible to overcome now.”

The numbers of deliveries had been declining for years with 265 births recorded at the hospital in 2022, the statement said. Births also have been decreasing nationally and older people have been moving into the Sandpoint area, officials said.

Hospital officials said Idaho’s legal and political climate was partly to blame.

After the United States Supreme Court stripped away constitutional protections for abortion last year, Idaho banned nearly all abortions in measures that subject physicians to prosecution for providing any abortions, even if needed to protect the health of a pregnant patient.

“The Idaho Legislature continues to introduce and pass bills that criminalize physicians for medical care nationally recognized as the standard of care,” the hospital statement said. “Consequences for Idaho physicians providing the standard of care may include civil litigation and criminal prosecution, leading to jail time or fines.”

Physicians could face felony charges and a medical license revocation for violating the law, which the stopped Idaho from enforcing the ban in medical emergencies at Medicare-funded facilities.

Highly respected, talented physicians are leaving, according to Bonner hospital officials, who said recruiting replacements would be extraordinarily difficult.

Dr. Amelia Huntsberger, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Bonner General Hospital, moved to Sandpoint in 2012 to work in the area, according to a court filing last year supporting an effort to halt the abortion ban.

She told the Idaho Capital Sun in Boise by email that she will leave the hospital and the state because of the abortion laws and because of the Idaho Legislature’s decision to discontinue the state’s maternal mortality review committee.

“For rural patients in particular, delaying medical care until we can say an abortion is necessary to prevent death is dangerous,” she said in her court filing. “Patients will suffer pain, complications, and could die if physicians comply with Idaho law as written.”

Huntsberger could not be reached for comment by The Associated Press and messages left for her with a hospital spokeswoman were not returned.

Leandra Wright told KREM-TV that after having a baby at Bonner General Health in 2020 she had been looking forward to the birth of her son there in August.

Wright, who lives in the nearby town of Sagle, said she learned about the hospital’s decision from a Facebook post.

“It’s nerve-wracking and stressful and my stomach just kind of drops,” Wright said. “Now I have to reestablish with another place and I have to drive to have my baby.”

Officials at Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene said in a Facebook post that anyone who would have given birth at Bonner General Health can go to Kootenai Health’s Family Birth Center, where about 2,200 babies are born each year.

“Leadership from both hospitals are working together to identify any barriers to care for the patient population affected by this closure and are creating solutions to ensure a quality birth experience,” the post said.

___

Associated Press writer Claire Rush in Portland, Oregon, contributed to this report.

National News

Associated Press

Ex-CEO of Nevada-based health care company Ontrak convicted of $12.5 million insider trading scheme

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The former CEO and chairman of Ontrak, a publicly traded health care company based in Nevada, was found guilty Friday of a multimillion-dollar insider trading scheme. A federal jury in Los Angeles convicted Terren Scott Peizer, a resident of Puerto Rico and Santa Monica, California, of one count of securities fraud […]

28 minutes ago

Associated Press

Lockheed Martin subsidiaries reach $70 million settlement for claims they overcharged Navy for parts

STRATFORD, Conn. (AP) — Two Lockheed Martin subsidiaries have agreed to pay the federal government $70 million for overcharging the Navy for aircraft parts, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday. The federal agency says Sikorsky Support Services, based in Stratford, Connecticut, and Derco Aerospace, headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, knowingly entered into an improper subcontract […]

48 minutes ago

Associated Press

Man accused in killing and kidnappings in Louisiana waives extradition

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A man arrested in the slaying of a Louisiana woman and abduction of her two daughters and subsequent death of one of them waived extradition Friday in federal court in Mississippi, clearing the way for his return to Louisiana to face trial. During his court appearance in Jackson, Daniel Callihan, 36, […]

55 minutes ago

Associated Press

88-year-old Montana man who was getaway driver in bank robberies sentenced to 2 years in prison

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An 88-year-old Montana man has been sentenced to two years in a federal prison medical facility for being the getaway driver in two bank robberies in Billings last summer, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montana said. The man was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty in February to two counts of bank […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Guest lineups for the Sunday news shows

WASHINGTON (AP) — ABC’s “This Week” — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. ___ NBC’s “Meet the Press” — Mitch Landrieu, national co-chair of President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign; Gov. Kristi Noem, R-S.D. ___ CBS’ “Face the Nation” — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.; former national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien; former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell. […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

At least 6 heat-related deaths reported in metro Phoenix so far this year as high hits 115 degrees

PHOENIX (AP) — At least six people have died from heat-related causes this year so far in sizzling metro Phoenix, where the temperatures this week hit 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 Celsius), Arizona’s Maricopa Department of Public Health reported this week. Another 87 deaths are under investigation for possible heat-related causes through last Saturday, public health […]

4 hours ago

Idaho hospital stops baby delivery in part due to politics