After 73 years, the Seattle OB/GYN Group will completely shut its doorways in December. Whereas it’s tragic for our sufferers and heart-wrenching for the medical doctors who look after them, our closure is a symptom of a a lot bigger drawback in well being care right this moment.
The lack of our clinic will have an effect on over 16,000 sufferers, which incorporates over 300 pregnant sufferers who now need to scramble to discover a new physician to ship their infants, some inside weeks of their due date. Our follow’s closure is the results of the identical points impacting doctor practices throughout our state and nation that make it more and more laborious to seek out well timed and mandatory medical care.
Doctor shortages have been predicted for years. A research revealed in 2021 by the Well being Sources and Companies Administration predicted that by 2030 there will likely be a shortage of OB-GYNs (physicians who ship infants) throughout the nation with the West being hit the toughest. The availability of those medical doctors will lower by 7% whereas the necessity for his or her companies will improve by 4%. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this development. Submit-pandemic, many physicians have determined to retire early because of burnout from caring for therefore many sick sufferers coupled with poor reimbursement, traumatic work environments and lengthy hours.
Reimbursement for main care, and particularly girls’s well being care, has lengthy been undervalued. In case you are a affected person on Medicaid or Medicare, it may be tough to seek out an workplace that can see you due to our insufficient reimbursement charges. Medicaid reimbursement charges in Washington are a few of the lowest within the nation. This particularly hurts impartial medical clinics that deal with pregnant sufferers as a result of half of all of the deliveries in Washington are lined by Medicaid. A standard vaginal supply and the follow-up care at present nets round $360 for the supplier in any case their overhead bills are lined. Reimbursement will be even decrease for sufferers on Medicaid, the variety of which expanded in the course of the pandemic.
Inside our follow, we additionally deal with sufferers who will not be pregnant however on Medicare. Over the past 20 years, Medicare reimbursement charges (adjusted for inflation) have fallen by 26% whereas prices to run a follow have elevated by virtually 50%. This difficulty will likely be worsened by the looming Medicare physician payment cuts anticipated in January.
Together with low reimbursement charges, there are different bills that make it tough (and in our case unimaginable) to maintain our doorways open. Obstetricians and gynecologists have a few of the highest malpractice insurance coverage charges. Malpractice insurance coverage premiums are pushed up by giant jury awards, since Washington has no cap on noneconomic damages. Moreover, like different employers, our workers salaries have been pushed up by inflation and the excessive price of residing within the Seattle space. As a personal follow, we are able to’t compete in opposition to the salaries provided by the bigger well being programs in our space.
The closure of our OB-GYN group ought to function a warning that our medical system is ailing. Folks have to contact their members of Congress to allow them to know medication is in bother. We shouldn’t be chopping doctor reimbursement for Medicare, however as a substitute ought to plan for yearly inflationary will increase. Regionally, we have to urge state legislators to extend Medicaid charges for these treating sufferers, not simply hospitals, in order that extra physicians and medical teams can afford to see these sufferers.
The physicians at Seattle OB/GYN Group are heartbroken to see an finish to our legacy. We will solely hope this serves as an indication that we have to make vital adjustments to our damaged system. All of us deserve top-quality well being care with medical doctors we belief.