Risky births due to delivery room closures

Ronja Asmussen does not have good memories of her pregnancy. She lives on Sylt – and that’s been a problem since the birthing center there closed down at the end of 2013. Ronja Asmussen started having contractions six weeks before her due date, at regular intervals – she had to get to the nearest maternity ward, on the mainland, as quickly as possible. But the last car train was gone. The paramedics therefore carried her into a normal large compartment of the Nordostseebahn. There she lay in labor for the entire crossing, in the midst of the other passengers. She only reached the clinic in Flensburg three hours later and was given a drug to stop labor pains. For Ronja Asmussen, a three-hour nightmare that could have ended differently.

VIDEO: Risky births due to delivery room closures (8 min)

Critical situations again and again

Since the birthing ward on Sylt was closed, critical situations have repeatedly arisen. The number of rescue helicopter missions has almost doubled. The situation in Ostholstein is similar: In August, the maternity ward in Oldenburg in Holstein was closed, with serious consequences for the island of Fehmarn. The nearest maternity wards in Eutin and Lubeck can be reached by car in just under an hour – a long way in the event of an emergency.

Anette Langner, State Secretary in the Ministry of Health

The Ministry of Health in Schleswig-Holstein nevertheless believes the closure of the two maternity wards was the right decision. "High-quality care and support for pregnant women would no longer have been guaranteed in the future", says State Secretary in the Ministry of Health Anette Langner. At both clinics, there simply weren’t enough births anymore.

Boarding as a solution?

The country is now relying on a simple solution: boarding. Pregnant women should move into accommodation near a well-equipped maternity ward on the mainland two weeks before the expected date of birth; the costs are covered by health insurance. "Our aspiration is to achieve high-quality care for pregnant women, and we achieve this care at the clinics where there is this boarding offer", says State Secretary Langner. "Therefore, in my view, it is necessary to promote to all women to go early to this boarding."

Ronja Asmussen

But Ronja Asmussen’s contractions came too early for this concept, she was not taken care of. And she was not the only one last year. Anke Bertrams is not surprised. She is a midwife on the island of Sylt. No two births are the same, and childbirth is not so easy to plan: "Any pregnant woman can suddenly become a high-risk pregnant woman in early labor, especially because the stress of pregnancy is so great." The midwife experiences at first hand how pregnant women on Sylt have recently become particularly worried. "Women are simply wondering what will be towards the end of their pregnancy: Where will they give birth? And above all: How will they get there?"

The rescue service should fix it

The Ministry of Health in Kiel is nevertheless convinced of its concept. For emergencies, State Health Secretary Langner refers to the rescue service: "For transport, we have a well-trained and well-equipped rescue service that, in my opinion, performs this task very well."

Tabea Scheffs gave birth on the shoulder of a highway

Tabea Scheffs had to experience first-hand what this means in an emergency. She was on Fehmarn when the labor started. An ambulance should take her to the delivery room. It would have made it to Oldenburg, but since this birthing center no longer exists, it had to go all the way to Lubeck. There was not enough time. Tabea Scheffs gave birth to her son on the shoulder of the A 1 freeway. Pregnant women are the ones who suffer from the closure of the two maternity wards, she says. "I already have the feeling, here something is carried out on the back of the women."

Entrance of an emergency medical station

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