Access to care remains large challenge for expectant mothers in rural areas

by Brooke Thibodaux | Thursday, February 9th, 2017 | Click for Original Story

Webster Springs, WV (WCHS/WVAH) — Access to maternity care is shrinking for women in many rural counties. In Webster County, Sabrina Mcie lives off a windy gravel road.

Mcie is 35 weeks along and she can’t wait to welcome her little girl, Naveah, into the world next month.

So far she’s had to travel an hour and 20 minutes to Summersville for her regular check ups.

Wednesday she got word that Summersville Regional Medical Center is closing it’s labor ward.

“When she told me that, I was just devastated, I was like what am I going to do,” Mcie said.

Mcie will now have to travel two hours or more for regular visits.

“At 37 weeks I will have to be going once a week,” Mcie said.

And at least that far when she delivers.

33 counties in West Virginia out of 55 do not have a hospital with a delivery ward.

Director of the West Virginia Perinatal Partnership, Amy Tolliver, says the partnership was formed in 2006 to improve the outcomes of pregnancies in the state.

“We’ve been loosing one hospital a year for the last forty years that provide delivery services,” Tolliver said.

Tolliver said the lack of maternity care available is a major barrier for women in rural areas.

“I don’t drive so it’s kind of hard getting away to the doctor,” Mcie said.

Mcie rides with her father or a family friend for her routine visits.

Tolliver said reliable transportation also becomes a factor.

“If they don’t have reliable transportation or access to that. They will miss their appointments that are vital,” Tolliver said.

Since 1976, the state’s lost delivery wards due to a number of factors: the rising cost of malpractice insurance for doctors, a growing elderly population, and a decline of births- even on a national level

If the pregnancy involves complications, the trip gets even longer to a specialist in either Charleston, Morgantown, or Huntington.

“As we loose the delivery service in communities we are also loosing those providers who don’t just provide delivery care they provide women’s women care, women’s gynecological care and other surgeries that are critically important,” Tolliver said.

For pregnant moms looking for better care in rural areas, it’s a matter of doing what you can .

“It’s devastating to think that’s being put on our state,” Mcie said.

Tolliver said they continue to push for several solutions which include: asking family practice physicians to partner with obstetricians, placing equipment in rural hospitals to connect local providers with specialists, and asking federally qualified health centers to add labor wards.