Avera Granite Falls transferring delivery services to regional partner in Marshall, Minnesota
Avera Granite Falls will transfer labor and delivery services to Avera Marshall at the start of the new year. The Olivia Hospital & Clinic transferred its labor and delivery services to Hutchinson Health earlier this year.
GRANITE FALLS — A second hospital in west central Minnesota is transferring its labor and delivery services to a regional partner as rural birth rates decline.
Avera Granite Falls is transferring its labor and delivery services 30 miles down the road to Avera Marshall effective Jan. 1, 2023, according to information provided by the CEOs of both locations during a mandated virtual hearing hosted by the Minnesota Department of Health on Oct. 13.
Avera Granite Falls will continue to offer the full range of prenatal and postpartum care, CEO Tom Kooiman emphasized during the hearing. Patients can continue to see their primary care physician, Dr. Rosa Avendano, in Granite Falls for care.
“Our commitment is that care will stay local for prenatal, postpartum and other women’s health needs,” Kooiman said.
Hospital staff training will continue, and equipment will remain on site to provide emergency birthing services, according to Kooiman.
The Olivia Hospital & Clinic, formerly the RC Hospital & Clinics operated by Renville County, discontinued labor and delivery services effective May 1. It continues to provide prenatal and postpartum care in Olivia.
As a partner with HealthPartners, Olivia Hospital & Clinic transferred delivery services to Hutchinson Health but also partnered with CentraCare in Willmar and Redwood Falls to offer delivery services in those locations.
As was the case in Olivia, Kooiman cited declining birth rates as a factor in the decision. The Granite Falls facility is on pace to do 14 deliveries in this fiscal year. That compares to 25 last year and 37 the year before.
Kooiman said the declining number of deliveries has been raised as a concern in each of the past five years by the hospital’s insurance carrier. While the number of deliveries has declined, the prevalence of higher-risk deliveries has increased.
“Given our current model and numbers where they’re at, we don’t feel this is a sustainable model going forward,” said the CEO.
Finding family practice physicians with obstetrics training and nurses willing to provide obstetrics services also presents challenges, and was a factor in the decision, said Kooiman.
He emphasized that Avera Granite Falls is not reducing its overall scope of services, and in fact, has been expanding the types of specialty services offered at the location.
Debbie Streier, regional president and CEO of Avera Marshall, said rural care and women’s health care are very important to Avera. It continues to recruit women's health care providers and is planning to add midwife services.
She said the transfer of delivery services to Marshall gives patients access to additional resources. The Marshall location provides more than 400 deliveries a year. It has an on-call team at the ready and pain management resources. It can also offer lactation counseling and donated breast milk if needed after deliveries.
Avendano will continue to serve patients in Granite Falls on two days each week, and will be available on two or three days each week at the Marshall location. Avendano has met one-on-one with her patients about the plans to transfer delivery and labor services.
Avera Granite Falls has also sent letters to patients and has talked to stakeholders in the community to get feedback on the decision, according to Streier and Kooiman.