While Oil Boom Has Slowed, Births Still Booming

Vicky Wiebe, owner of Tiny Toes in downtown Williston, N.D., brings her daughter, Kaelynn, to work with her on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. Kaelynn was one of a record 882 babies born in Williston in 2015. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service
Vicky Wiebe, owner of Tiny Toes in downtown Williston, N.D., brings her daughter, Kaelynn, to work with her on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. Kaelynn was one of a record 882 babies born in Williston in 2015. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – A baby boom continued in North Dakota’s Oil Patch in 2015 even as falling oil prices prompted layoffs and workers leaving the area.

Hospitals in Williston and Minot each reported a record number of deliveries last year, and Dickinson had the most births in one year since the 1980s oil boom.

“We have not slowed down with the oil going down,” said Leona Lambert, who oversees OB services for Mercy Medical Center in Williston.

Williston had a record 882 births in 2015, up from 804 in 2014.

Vicky Wiebe, who became a new mom in Williston last year, said the numbers show that many workers who relocated their families to North Dakota have decided to stay despite the recent downturn.

“The workers that are up here are the ones that are staying here,” said Wiebe, whose family moved to Williston from Texas in 2012.

Trinity Hospital in Minot reported a record number of deliveries in 2015, but it was a smaller increase than in recent years.

The hospital recorded 1,716 deliveries in 2015, up three from 2014. Some of the deliveries involved multiple births, putting the total number of babies born in 2015 at 1,732.

Women’s and Children’s Services Director Lorrie Antos said the smaller increase last year may indicate the pace of growth may has leveled off.

In Dickinson, CHI St. Joseph’s reported 682 births in 2015, up from 611 in 2014. Births have more than doubled in Dickinson since 2007.

Watford City residents likely accounted for a number of the births in Williston and Dickinson because the McKenzie County hospital doesn’t deliver babies. But there are no statistics available for Watford City births.

“My perception is our births are up appreciably,” said Dan Kelly, CEO of McKenzie County Healthcare Systems. “I just don’t have a number.”

Community members have been asking for birthing services in Watford City, Kelly said. A new medical facility under construction there is designed to add space for deliveries, but hospital officials will continue to monitor the needs between now and when the building opens in 2018, Kelly said.

“Whether we implement that immediately or not will just depends on how the market continues to shift,” Kelly said.

In Williston, births are expected to stay high this year, but may not beat the 2015 record, Lambert said. Mercy Medical Center had several months in 2015 with 70 to 80 births. In 2016, hospital staff anticipate births will be in the high 60s to 70s each month, Lambert said.

“That’s still a lot,” she said.

The high number of births in Williston sparked a business idea for Wiebe. After struggling to find an Easter dress for her daughter, Kaelynn, Wiebe decided to open a baby clothing store in downtown Williston.

The shop, Tiny Toes, which opened in November, has been busy with only word-of-mouth advertising, she said.

Her husband Arnold, who works for a trucking company that hauls water for the oil industry, saw work slow down last summer. But he was able to find construction work until trucking picked back up again, Wiebe said.

The family, who owns a house in Williston, plans make Williston their home long term.

“Even with the town slowing down, this town is still growing,” Wiebe said.