MUNCIE, Ind. — In August, Indiana became the first state to legalize abortion, and hospitals across the state have been bracing for the blow. IU Health, the largest health care provider in Indiana, has been working for weeks to make changes to its practices, educational programs and properties to ensure its providers comply with Senate Bill 1.
“We had 10 teams. They covered things like legal considerations, ethical issues, human resources, clinical and patient safety, to name a few,” said Dr. David Ingram, CEO and Chief Medical Officer of IU Health.
One of the first tasks for a healthcare provider is the numbers game. The new law requires abortions to be performed in a hospital or hospital clinic, so IU Health sought to find out where abortions are being performed in the state and what abortion rates will look like after the law goes into effect.
“The idea was theirs. [abortions] Those deemed legitimate, we would have the capacity to handle them,” Ingram said.
IU Health is also working to increase hospital capacity, especially for neonatal intensive care units, in anticipation of an increase in pregnancy rates in the state.
“We’re operating at 90-95% capacity in those units right now, so it’s something we’re going to have to think about a lot,” Ingram said.
Senate Bill 1 would ban abortions except in cases of rape, consanguinity, fetal abnormalities, or to protect the health and safety of the mother. IU Health has created a 24/7 rapid response team for providers to contact if they have any clinical, legal or ethical concerns.
“We know this is new territory for many of our suppliers, and this adds to the stress on whether they’re making the right decision,” Ingram said.
“As health care providers, our primary concern is taking care of our patients,” said Dr. Caroline Rouse, medical director of maternity services at IU Health.
Ball Memorial Hospital is the only hospital in Muncie that continues to provide legal abortion services.
“We know abortion is safe, it’s evidence-based, and we will continue to provide that care within the parameters of the new law,” Rouse said.
Aside from the clinical changes, another big problem is IU Health’s OBGYN residency program. IU Health is the only medical school in the state, so they decided to offer out-of-state training for some procedures.
“The program should provide access to a full range of reproductive services,” Ingram said.
Ingram said the bill could drive students out of their academic programs, and surveys at IU Health show many medical school residents are considering out-of-state jobs in light of the changes.
“We’ve been thinking about what it means to be a physician here, and we have a fully developed plan to not only retain our workforce, but also to recruit,” Ingram said.
With all of these changes being made, Ingram and Rice say the most important aspect is their patients.
“We are prepared and our highest priority is to provide services to our patients to protect the patient-physician relationship within the boundaries of the newly established law,” Ingram said.
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