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Maternal healthcare desert is a top interim issue for a committee but are struggling to find concrete solutions to introduce

Two men in suits with black laptops look up ahead. There is a white wall behind them and two placards in front of each laptop reading Senator Baldwin and Representative Zwonitzer.
Wyoming Legislature Youtube Page
Sen. Baldwin and Rep. Zwonitzer listen to someone speaking at the most recent interim meeting.

Legislators are struggling to come up with a solution to a lack of maternal healthcare in the state. A committee dedicated to addressing the issue came out of a recent meeting with more questions than answers.

Since 2018, three delivery units in Wyoming have shut down, significantly decreasing the number of OBGYNS in the state.

Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee Chair Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) didn’t mince words about how difficult it’s been trying to find legal solutions to increase the number of practitioners who can deliver babies.

“We have struggled on some concrete definitive things that we believe we can put out for the 2025 session that'll make a dent and really increase care and help alleviate some of these issues,” he said about halfway through talking about the issue at a recent committee meeting in Pinedale.

The committee spent about an hour and half talking about possible solutions, which included creating a midwife trajectory at a community college, a rural family doctor residency and a regional OB-GYN hub for the state.

The governor’s health policy officer, Jenn Davis, told members the governor created an obstetrics and gynecology subcommittee that was recently combined with the primary care subcommittee to look for solutions. They are looking at what other rural states are doing, plus seeing if there’s an appetite for an OB fellowship through the WWAMI family practice program. WWAMI stands for the states served by the University of Washington School of Medicine: Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

But when committee members pushed to see some kind of draft policy at their next meeting in August, Davis couldn't promise anything. She agreed that the number of OB-GYNs in the state is concerning.

Davis said a long term solution is going to take a lot of time because the lack of access to deliver babies is part of a much bigger problem.

“We just simply don't have the amount of practitioners in Wyoming that we need in the space, regardless of whether it's midwives, OBs, family practice. We have a shortage in all,” said Davis.

She told the committee figuring out a short term solution that can address the issue while a long term one is in the works is worth it for Wyoming.

“It's hard to grow our economy if we have a desert of OB-GYN care where you can't have a family,” she said.

But without a clear direction, the committee decided they need to hear more about the issues practicing OB-GYNS and midwives are facing. The committee’s next meeting is at the end of August.

Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. She has won a regional Murrow award for her reporting on mental health and firearm owners. During her time leading the Wyoming Public Media newsroom, reporters have won multiple PMJA, Murrow and Top of the Rockies Excellence in Journalism Awards. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.

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