To evaluate access to inpatient obstetric care, we determined the proportions of women of reproductive age who resided within 30-minute and 60-minute driving times to the nearest hospital offering perinatal services.
Perinatal centers, identified from the 2007 American Hospital Association survey, were designated as being level I (uncomplicated obstetric and nursery care), level II (limited complicated care), or level III (full complement of care). The study population consisted of all reproductive-aged (18–39 years) women included in the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau estimates. We used geographic information system mapping software to map 30-minute and 60-minute drive times from the census block group centroid to the nearest perinatal center.
A total of 2,606 hospitals in the United States offered some level of perinatal care for the 49.8 million reproductive-aged women. Access to perinatal centers within a 30-minute drive varied by the level of care: 87.5% of the population to any center; 78.6% to level II or level III centers; and 60.8% to level III facilities. Access to the centers within a 60-minute drive also varied: 97.3% of the population to any center; 93.1% to level II or level III centers; and 80.1% to level III facilities. The mostly rural western half of the United States (except for the Pacific Coast) and Alaska had the greatest geographic maldistribution of perinatal services.
Driving times to hospitals offering perinatal care vary considerably. Using geographic information system software can be valuable for regional obstetric workforce planning and policy-making in relation to accessing care.
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