You've heard about the problems of rural OB-GYN'S as they struggle to stay in business. Now Gov. Mark Warner's obstetrics work group has come up with more than 30 recommendations on what to do about the crisis.
The two problems facing rural OB-GYN's are low payouts for Medicaid and high malpractice insurance premiums. One OB-GYN WHSV talked to says these new proposals are a start, but they don't completely address the problem.
Dr. Cathy Slusher is an OB-GYN at RMH, and a staunch advocate for governmental change for rural obstetricians. She's encouraged to see that Gov. Warner's work group is still trying to stem the tide of OB-GYN's leaving rural areas. “I think the committee has come up with some suggestions that are going to be helpful. Certainly they're not going to solve the problem, but they are going to provide assistance and on the front end they will make a slight difference,” said Slusher.
Some of the proposals include making more women eligible for Medicaid and increasing pay-out rates for their care. Making insurance companies give 90 days notice to doctors if they're dropping their malpractice insurance or raising it by more than 25 percent and giving midwives more autonomy during delivery without an OB/GYN's supervision. “This helps for accessibility and care for underserved women,” said Slusher. “This will help in that way, because first of all we'll be able to afford to take care of them and they will have better access.”
However, Dr. Slusher is not thrilled with more midwife autonomy, especially in emergency cases. “Wherever you've got a situation that you have a care provider that can't take care of the ultimate crisis then you need to have that backup in place and that backup known to the patient,” explained Slusher.
Dr. Slusher says frivolous malpractice lawsuits still need to be addressed for any progress to be made. A statewide public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for mid-October. It goes before the General Assembly Oct. 29.