Calculator.net says it takes 65 minutes to drive from Golconda to Carbondale, although anyone who has experienced that drive might claim 65 minutes is optimistic.

Thebes is 59 minutes from Carbondale, Metropolis 66 minutes.

The same site says Akin is 38 minutes from Mount Vernon, while the Crossville to Mount Vernon commute is 58 minutes.

Those times are interesting factoids for planning day trips around Southern Illinois. But, the times can make a critical difference when an expectant mother goes into unexpected labor.

The myth of American healthcare superiority took another body blow earlier this month when Heartland Regional Medical Center in Marion announced it would no longer offer birthing services. The service was discontinued as of yesterday.

That leaves just two hospitals, Memorial Hospital of Carbondale and SSM Health Good Samaritan Hospital, as the only two facilities in the 16 lower counties of Illinois offering childbirth services. Let that sink in for a minute.

Twenty-five years ago when a women in Jonesboro went into labor, it was a matter of rushing to the hospital in Anna. The same scenario held true in Eldorado, Elizabethtown, Benton and Du Quoin. That is no longer the case.

For the vast majority of Southern Illinois residents, the delivery room is at least 30 minutes away. This situation isn’t unique to our region. Childbirth, considered a routine medical procedure by most Americans, at least male Americans, is becoming increasingly more dangerous in the United States.

“American women are 50 percent more likely to die in childbirth than their own mothers,” said Dr. Neel Shah, a Harvard Medical School obstetrician, in a recent Associated Press story.

Although many Americans still puff out their chests and boast that our medical system is the best in the world, the numbers just don’t back that up. According to Healthcare System Tracker and the Kaiser Family Foundation, America has higher rates of hospital admissions for preventable diseases than most industrialized nations.

The United States also has higher rates of mortality amenable to healthcare — deaths that could be prevented with quick, and effective, care.

The situation is even more grim when it relates to childbirth, infant and maternal mortality.

The Central Intelligence Agency tracks maternal mortality rates worldwide. The United States ranks behind Saudi Arabia, Bulgaria, the United Arab Emirates and Croatia. The Center for Disease Control said there are 17 maternal deaths per 100,000 live deliveries in the United States.

CIA figures show there are 5.8 infant deaths during childbirth per 1,000 live births in the United States. That may sound statistically insignificant, but when it is your child or grandchild among the 5.8, it’s devastating. Cuba, South Korea and Norway all have lower infant mortality rates. Japan, at 2.0 deaths per 1,000 live births, is the safest nation worldwide for childbirth.

Medicaid rules also complicate the childbirth issue. Medicaid benefits don’t transfer across state lines. That means a woman living in Ware can’t take the much shorter drive to Cape Girardeau. Instead, she has to drive to Carbondale. The woman in Metropolis can’t 10 minutes across the Ohio River bridge, she has to made the 66-minute trek to Carbondale.

While it is difficult to envision a solution to the lack of facilities offering childbirth services unless that state offers a grant or incentive program to medical facilities. Unfortunately, that takes money and the State of Illinois is still operating on pauper status. Conversely, it certainly seems government entities can make Medicaid benefits transferrable through mutual assistance programs. The current system imposes undue, ridiculous, and potentially fatal hardships on families.

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