> This N.J. hospital will cease maternity care. What it means for women.

This N.J. hospital will cease maternity care. What it means for women.

Pregnant women in Cape May County will soon have to travel even farther for maternity care.

On Sept. 15, Cape Regional Medical Center in Cape May will cease its obstetrical services, Susan Staeger, spokeswoman for the hospital, said in an email.

“This development is very disappointing to everyone at Cape Regional Health System,” Staeger said.

Cape Regional is the only hospital in the county.

The facility had only two OB/GYNs. One is leaving for another job at Shore Medical Center in Somers Point, located about 20 miles away, Staeger said.

Cape Regional is working with Shore Medical Center — the closest facility — and Atlanticare “to develop transfer agreements to quickly transition obstetrical patients who present in Cape Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Department,” she said.

Atlanticare Regional Medical Center-Mainland Campus is located about 30 miles from Cape Regional.

Recruiting OB/GYNs has been difficult, Staeger said. She cited three reasons: few babies born at the facility (only 259 in 2021), no laborist program and doctors having to be on call all the time.

Those are “all reasons candidates have chosen other opportunities,” she said.

Still, a shortage of OB-GYNs is not just a problem in Cape May County.

Staeger cited a 2019 report by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which projected “a shortage of up to 8,800 obstetricians and gynecologists (OB-GYNs) by 2020, and a shortfall of up to 22,000 by 2050.” The report added that “the ACOG estimated in 2017 that half of the U.S. counties lack a single OB-GYN.”

Staeger said prenatal care for “expectant mothers continues to be available in Cape May County through CompleteCare and OB/GYN Practices affiliated with Shore Medical Center and Atlanticare.”

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Spencer Kent may be reached at skent@njadvancemedia.com.

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