Many areas of the country are grappling with a shortage of OB-GYNs, and the problem isn’t going away any time soon. A new report by Doximity, a social networking site for health care professionals, found that several cities will struggle to keep up with the demand for health care services.
Doximity looked at over 30,000 OB-GYNs in the country’s 50 largest metro regions. Las Vegas, Orlando, Los Angeles, Miami, and Riverside, California are at greatest risk of shortages. Detroit, Memphis, Salt Lake City, St. Louis, and Buffalo, New York are further down the list.
There is a huge difference in workloads for OB-GYNs across the country, revealing the extent of the shortage. OB-GYNs in Riverside, California, for example, assisted with an average of 248 births per year, compared to just 58 births per OB-GYN in Hartford, Connecticut.
An OB-GYN shortage in the country is well-documented. Nearly half of the counties in the United States don’t have access to an OB-GYN, according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimated that in 2020, there will be between 6,000 and 8,000 fewer OB-GYNs in the country than needed. Rural hospitals are also dealing with these shortages. A 2010 University of Illinois College of Medicine survey found that 34 percent of rural hospital CEOs reported shortages of OB-GYNs.
The lack of appropriate medical care could prove deadly. Maternal deaths in the United States are already fairly high, at 18.5 deaths for every 100,000 live births, compared to other developed countries, like Canada, where there are 8.2 deaths.
The Doximity study doesn’t analyze why less young people are choosing to become OB-GYNs, but there are a few possible factors for why there is a shortage today. The field has become more dominated by women, and female OB-GYNs tend to retire earlier and prefer more flexible schedules. There is greater demand from doctors today to have a less difficult and unpredictable work schedule, even though it has been typical for OB-GYNs to work long or strange hours for many years. And although OB-GYNs have a median salary of $187,200, they could make a lot more money in cardiology, orthopedics or radiology.
Restrictions on women’s health care and lack of training opportunities aren’t helping to recruit more OB-GYNs either. The national Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requires all medical schools to train their residents to perform abortions if they want to keep their accreditation for OB-GYN training. But a few states have restrictions on abortions or ban abortions at publicly funded institutions, which includes state universities. In Wisconsin, where 20 of its 72 counties don’t have an OB-GYN, lawmakers have introduced a bill that would stop faculty from training medical students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on how to perform an abortion. Making it harder for students to receive the training they need obviously compounds the shortage of OB-GYNs nationally.