Central Florida OB providers concerned about decreasing access to maternity care

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — More women die of childbirth-related complications in the United States than any other developed country.

Florida is ahead of the U.S. average for both maternal and infant mortality rates.

Channel 9 found that researchers identified Osceola County as a problem area.

In the U.S., ten percent of births happen in counties with limited access to maternity care. Osceola is one of those counties.

Monica Prieto said she felt abandoned during her pregnancy three years ago soon after she fled Venezuela for Kissimmee.

She told Channel 9 that, once she obtained insurance, no OB-GYN would take her as a patient as she neared her due date.

Prieto said she was rejected multiple times and advised to go to the hospital if she had an emergency with her pregnancy. She eventually found midwife Jennie Joseph, who works with 900 women a year who are in a similar situation as Prieto.

"They've already been told 'no' 85,000 times," Joesph said. "They're frantic and then we're saying 'Wait some more' as well."

The longer a woman goes without prenatal care, the more likely complications will arise.

Osceola County has providers, but is running on a shortage.

Standards from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists call for atleast 60 OB-GYNs and midwives per 10,000 births in every county. In 2016, a March of Dimes study found Osceola County's rate was 57 per 10,000 births. The average provider cares for hundreds of pregnant women each year, so researchers said a gap of even a few providers is significant.

The same study also revealed Osceola County has the highest percentage of women without health insurance in Central Florida.

Joseph believes the problem is getting worse, especially for lower-income women and minorities.

"In the last two years, they have steadily lost (OB-GYN) practces that the (OB-GYN) will say 'I'm not taking pregnant patients anymore,'" Joseph said.

OB-GYNs can be more selective because the popluation has increased, but the number of providers has not.

A new study shows Orlando has the fourth-highest risk of shortage in the country.

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