According to the South Carolina Health Professions Data book, 14 counties currently have no OBGYN at all with many having only one.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Karen Alvarado lives in Newberry County and is expecting a baby girl in September.
“This is my fourth and my last,” said Alvarado. “I have one boy and this will be my third girl.”
She gets her checkups from Lovelace Family Medicine in Prosperity- one of the only Family Practices that offers OB/GYN care in Newberry County. It’s just ten minutes from Alvarado’s home.
“I work here in Newberry so I do my checkup, I can ask questions if I have any, I can even come here during my breaks and go back to work, so it’s very convenient for me,” said Alvarado.
Many expecting moms throughout the state are not as lucky. According to the South Carolina Health Professions Data book, 14 counties currently have no OBGYN at all, including Fairfield and Saluda. Several others only have one.
“Having patients who have to drive an hour, hour and a half to get their prenatal care is just very dangerous,” said Dr. Katee Wyant, who will soon be an OB/GYN in Manning.
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She said the lack of access to prenatal care is costing some mothers their lives. According to DHEC, South Carolina’s Maternal Mortality rate is 26.2 per 100,000 live births. The National Maternal mortality rate is 23.8 per 100,000 births.
A maternal death is defined as the death of a woman while she is pregnant or within 42 days of the end of her pregnancy.
“All women in rural areas are at higher risk, but specifically women of color and women of low socioeconomic status,” said Wyant.
In South Carolina the maternal mortality rate for black women is 42 deaths per 100,000.
As Dr. Wyant fills a need in a rural area. She said money is the biggest factor driving many rural doctors away.
“OB care is typically not reimbursed as well as other care like surgical care,” said Wyant. “You also have to carry a lot of liability insurance, which is expensive.”
She said telehealth and offering incentives for rural health could help fill the gaps.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has extended Medicaid from 60 days to 12 months post-partum for new and expecting mothers.
According to the South Carolina Maternal Morbidity and Mortality review committee, 80% of pregnancy-related deaths happen between the mother giving birth and one year post partum.
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