RIO RANCHO — Rio Rancho’s only neonatal intensive care unit will shut down next month due to financial strains and a lack of patients, according to an official at Presbyterian Rust Medical Center.
Rust’s NICU, which helps treat premature babies with congenital birth defects, respiratory distress and various sorts of infection, will close its doors during the first week of August. The newborn intensive care, which has 30 nurses, has been available to patients since the hospital opened its doors in 2011.
Rust’s birthing services will go on without the NICU and will continue to be the only Rio Rancho-based hospital to offer baby deliveries. The nearest healthcare centers with a NICU for Rio Rancho residents are in Albuquerque: Lovelace Women’s Hospital, University of New Mexico Hospital and the Children’s Center at Presbyterian.
Angela Ward, Rust campus administrator, said the hospital will continue to treat NICU patients until the treatment area closes in August while patients who continue to need care will be transferred to Presbyterian’s Children Center. Future deliveries in which the newborn is younger than 36 weeks will also be transferred to the child center for treatment.
The physicians and nurses who work at Rust’s NICU will be moved to other departments throughout Presbyterian, she said.
The state’s declining birth rate and ailing economy were two factors the hospital considered before deciding to close the NICU, Ward said.
“We have a thriving birthing service and a small amount of our babies end up meeting that level of care,” Ward said. “We’ve had low demand for very expensive care,” Ward said.
According to New Mexico Selected Health Statistics annual reports, the state’s birth rate has been on a slow decline for nearly a decade. In 2008, New Mexico had a birth rate of 14.9 births per 1,000 population; in 2014, the state’s most recent report, New Mexico’s birth rate was 12.4 births per 1,000 population.