Mayo Clinic Health System is ending labor and delivery services at its New Prague hospital on Friday.
It’s just the latest Minnesota hospital to stop delivering babies, with some others — including the Essentia Health-run facility in Fosston last month — also moving labor and delivery services to larger, centralized hospitals in recent years.
In the case of New Prague, Mayo Clinic Health System is moving those services to its hospital in Mankato.
The Minnesota Department of Health hosted a public hearing about the New Prague changes on Tuesday evening, giving Mayo Clinic Health System officials a chance to explain their decision.
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James Hebl, regional vice president at Mayo Clinic Health System, said there was a 20 percent decline in births at the New Prague hospital since 2019. And he said the majority of mothers in the New Prague area have been choosing to deliver their babies elsewhere.
“Simply put, families are choosing to have fewer children than in decades past,” Hebl said. “In the state of Minnesota, for example, we’ve actually seen the birth rate plummet by 21 percent since 2007, with projections that will likely continue into the future as well.”
New Prague was delivering fewer than 100 babies per year at the New Prague hospital, Mayo Clinic Health System officials said, and staffing shortages also contributed to the decision. The New Prague hospital only had one obstetrician remaining, and openings went unfilled amid a nationwide shortage of physicians. Starting next week, the hospital’s only physician is going on a leave of absence.
The New Prague hospital also had been using intermittent diversions — periods of time when the hospital needed to shut down the in-patient practice because there wasn’t enough staff.
“We’ve made the conclusion that our current model simply is unsustainable,” Hebl said. “We’ve made the difficult decisions based upon these very challenging circumstances before us.”
Mayo Clinic Health System will continue to provide prenatal, post-natal and well-women outpatient services at its New Prague location.
For labor and delivery services after Friday, the Mankato hospital is about an hour’s drive from New Prague. Mayo Clinic Health System said its patients also can transfer care to other, closer — but non-Mayo — hospitals in Shakopee, Faribault and Northfield.
Among those who spoke at Tuesday’s hearing, Joey Offerdahl of New Prague said his wife gave birth twice at the hospital.
“We experienced the best possible care,” he said. “We couldn’t speak enough about how well our children and my wife was taken care of. What would be the reason for us to continue to go through Mayo for future pregnancies ... if we don’t have the option of New Prague as kind of a one-stop shop? I don’t feel that it’s necessarily fair to go be passed off to another hospital when we could just do it all here.”