Births at John Peter Smith Hospital are expected to fall more than 20 percent by next year, a development that officials at the public hospital district attribute in part to the stagnant economy.
With just 3,300 deliveries through April of this fiscal year, births have decreased 12 percent from 2010, officials said.
The hospital anticipates that deliveries will drop 10 percent more next year, said Bill Whitman, the JPS Health Network's chief operating officer.
The decrease will have budget implications for the hospital because about three-quarters of deliveries are to undocumented immigrants, for which the district receives Medicaid reimbursements.
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In an eight-month period in 2009 and 2010, for example, the hospital district received about $5 million in Medicaid reimbursements, officials have said. Delivering a baby is considered an emergency procedure.
"When you have a paying source and that source is reduced -- particularly when budgets are going to be much tighter next year -- you will have an impact," JPS CEO Robert Earley said.
The economy is likely behind the decrease, officials said. Cash-strapped families may have decided that they can't afford to have more children, and fewer construction projects mean fewer families in North Texas that typically rely on JPS services.
"When you have an economic slowdown, you're going to have a slowdown on people here for jobs, even on a temporary basis," Earley said. "And I think you have people saying 'You know what, maybe this isn't the right time to have a child.'"
Whitman noted that Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas announced recently that it expected births to drop a staggering 40 percent.
Nationally, the birthrate fell 4 percent from 2007 to 2009, according to the latest figures available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The largest decrease was among Hispanic women, which may help explain why public hospitals like JPS and Parkland, which typically serve a large number of Hispanics, are affected.
Public hospitals in Texas saw a 6 percent decrease in births during the same period, higher than the 2 percent drop that occurred in safety-net hospitals nationally, according to the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems.
While the decrease at JPS looks substantial on paper, it is more subtle inside the hospital, said Patricia Alridge, JPS director of women and children's services. The hospital has 15 labor rooms and usually more deliveries than "we can manage with space," she said.
"It's not that we have people standing around with nothing to do," she said. "We are still very busy. We're nowhere near closing off rooms or anything like that."
While the economy may be contributing to an overall decrease in births, Alridge said the hospital has served more new parents who previously had health insurance and used other hospitals. But they have lost jobs and now depend on JPS for care, she said.
Alex Branch, 817-390-7689