RIVER FALLS, Wis. — The area is feeling the effects of a declining birth rate with River Falls Area Hospital planning to close its birth center in April after ending a partnership with Hudson Physicians.

“The steady decrease in volume over the last years has been a significant impact to this decision,” River Falls Area Hospital President Helen Strike said. “The last five years we’ve seen a steady decline in volume of deliveries, in past years we have been at less than 100 deliveries, around 85.”

Hudson Physicians has provided delivery doctors to River Falls Area Hospital’s birth center for a handful of years, an agreement which will come to a mutual end March 31. Limited regular services provided by Hudson Physicians will continue until then.

The national birth rate has seen significant drops in the last few years and reached its lowest level in 32 years in 2018, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Funding isn’t an issue, it’s about our relationship with Hudson Physicians. We’ve had contracts with them for the last five years, we worked with them over the last eight months or so to work through some new expectations for both sides on our agreement,” Strike said.

Allina Health external communications adviser Tim Burke assured that mainstream facilities and services will stay in the River Falls area.

“River Falls hospital is committed to the community. It isn’t going anywhere, this is just one particular situation,” Burke said.

Though the birth center will see an end, a new beginning is in the mix.

For the first time in a number of years Allina Health will open a Women’s Health Clinic on the River Falls Area Hospital campus in April.

“For right now, there’s a significant amount of pregnancy care and delivery services available to our community and we hope that we are able to build a substantial OB/GYN practice at our Allina clinic,” Strike said.

Employees directly affected by the center’s closing will be provided direction and other Allina Health job opportunities.

“The River Falls Area Hospital Birth Center is an outstanding program with extraordinary team members who have delivered thousands of babies safely and provided incredible birth experiences. We recognize that this represents a change that impacts our entire staff and the community we are so privileged to serve,” Strike said in a news release.

While River Falls has seen birth numbers drop, Hudson continues to care for an average of 500 deliveries each year, chief executive officer of Hudson Physicians Matt Brandt said. He confirmed that Hudson Physicians will see no change to its birth center or women’s services.

Delivery centers nearby other than Hudson Physicians include the Regina Hospital Birth Center, the Mother Baby Center at United Hospital, at Children’s Minnesota.

Information about River Falls Area Hospital’s birth center is still listed on its Allina Health website.