For-profit hospitals perform more C-sections

September 11, 2010

By Nathanael Johnson
California Watch

For-profit hospitals across the state are performing cesarean sections at higher rates than nonprofit hospitals, a California Watch analysis has found.

A database compiled from state birthing records revealed that, all factors considered, women are at least 17 percent more likely to have a cesarean section at a for-profit hospital than at one that operates as a non-profit. A surgical birth can bring in twice the revenue of a vaginal delivery.

Murrietta, California, USA - Heather Kirwan in the kitchen with her six-year old daughter Cecilia. Kirwan is a single mom who had a C-section which led to an ectopic pregnancy and left her unable to have more kids. (Credit: © Mark Avery).

In addition, some hospitals appear to be performing more C-sections for non-medical reasons — including an individual doctor’s level of patience and the staffing schedules in maternity wards, according to interviews with health professionals.

Across the state, more women are having C-sections for a variety of reasons: a rise in obesity and the number of older mothers, fear of lawsuits among doctors and hospitals, and a growing cultural acceptance of the procedure. Rather than examine these well-known trends, California Watch looked at why individual hospitals are performing cesarean sections at higher rates than others.

The statewide database revealed significant differences among 253 hospitals in California. New mothers had a 14 percent chance of giving birth by C-section at the nonprofit Kaiser Permanente Redwood City Medical Center, for example, while new mothers at the for-profit Los Angeles Community Hospital had a 59 percent chance of undergoing a surgical birth. In Riverside County, hospitals just miles apart had dramatically different rates, even though they serve essentially the same population.

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