MUNCIE, Ind.— In August, Indiana became the first state to sign an abortion ban into law and hospitals in the state prepared for the effects. Teams at IU Health, Indiana’s largest healthcare provider, have been working for several weeks to make changes to their procedures, training programs and resources to enable their providers to comply with Bill 1 of the Senate.
“We had 10 teams. They included things like legal considerations, ethical considerations, human resources, clinical and patient safety, to name a few,” said Dr. David Ingram, executive vice president and chief medical officer. Chief of IU Health.
One of the health care provider’s first tasks was a numbers game. The new law requires abortions to be performed in a hospital or hospital clinic. So IU Health set out to find out where abortions typically occur in the state and what the volume of abortions would look like after the law takes effect.
“The idea was, among those [abortions] that have been deemed legal, would we have the capacity to accommodate them,” Ingram said.
IU Health also predicts an increase in the volume of pregnancies statewide, so work is underway to increase hospital capacity, particularly for neonatal intensive care units.
“Right now we’re operating at about 90-95% capacity on these units, so that’s something we need to think deeply about,” Ingram said.
Senate Bill 1 prohibits abortion except for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, or to protect the health and safety of the mother. IU Health has established a 24/7 Rapid Response Team that its providers can contact in the event of a clinical, legal or ethical issue.
“We know this is new territory for many of our suppliers, and it has heightened concern about whether they are making the right decision,” Ingram said.
“Our primary concern as health care providers is caring for our patients,” said Dr. Caroline Rouse, medical director of maternity services at IU Health.
Ball Memorial Hospital is the only hospital in Muncie and will continue 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.
Apart from clinical changes, another big complication is IU Health’s OBGYN residency program. IU Health is the only medical school in the state, so they made the decision to look to out-of-state training for some procedures.
“The program should provide access to all reproduction services,” Ingram said.
Ingram said the bill could alienate students from their education program, and surveys at IU Health show many medical school residents are considering leaving state employment in light Changes.
“We’ve thought about what it means to be a doctor here and have a fully-laid plan to not only retain our workforce but to continue recruiting,” Ingram said.
With all of these changes being made, Ingram and Rouse said the most important aspect was their patients.
“We are ready and the highest priority for us is to provide services to our patients to preserve the patient-doctor relationship within the confines of the newly established law,” Ingram said.
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