Crisis in Care: A look at the shortage of maternity care providers

Published: Oct. 29, 2019 at 8:44 AM CDT
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The March of Dimes reports nearly half of the counties in Missouri and Arkansas don't have obstetricians, gynecologists or certified midwives. That includes several counties in the Ozarks. And, several of our viewers from those outlying counties report traveling an hour or more for care.

This situation (a pregnancy exam, see video) looks absolutely normal when it comes to maternity care. The problem, it's not common enough in the Ozarks. We don't have enough people like Nurse Practitioner Amanda Hyde.

"I know that these patients don't have a lot of options," reflected Hyde.

Brittani Smoot knows she's lucky. She lives just down the street from Jordan Valley's Marshfield Clinic.

"If Jordan Valley wasn't right here in town, it probably would be very problematic on my end," says Smoot.

"But, not everyone lives right around the corner. They drive up to 45 minutes or more because Amanda is their only option." reports Paul Adler.

"I see patients from Elkland, Niangua, Elkland, Buffalo," commented Hyde. "A lot of patients don't get adequate prenatal care. I've had several come in that I see for their first OB appointment and they'll be in their 2nd or 3rd trimester because they simply haven't had an opportunity to get prenatal care. "

Right now, Jordan Valley has three openings for an OB/GYN or Maternity Care Specialist. Recruiting someone like Amanda can start as early as high school.

"It can take years to recruit an OB/GYN," says Alexis Brown with Jordan Valley Community Health Center.

"Years?," Paul Adler replies.

"Correct," Brown answers. "There's always finger crossing in the recruiting process."

Smoot won't get left out or trapped in that Maternity Care Desert. She has Amanda right up until delivery day. Then, she'll travel to Springfield for the birth of her child.

"It's a little intimidating. But, at the same time, I'm very excited to meet my kid," says Smoot.

"It's a big responsibility for me I feel, because, I'm their only option," says Hyde.

Jordan Valley works with both Cox and Mercy in the recruiting process instead of competing against them.

Meantime, on November 4, The March of Dimes will release a new Report Card on Maternal and Infant Health in Missouri and Arkansas. We'll look at the details when it's released.