Burnout and early retirement are contributing to a growing shortage of obstetricians and gynecologists (OBGYN) in the United States, according to a new report from medical social network Doximity – and Sacramento-area women could be among the most highly affected.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) expects there will be 6,000 to 8,800 fewer doctors in this field than needed by the year 2020. Doximity called the shortage “the coming U.S. women’s health crisis” in its July report.
The Doximity research, led by University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health adjunct assistant professor Chris Whaley, Ph.D., examines how the growing shortage will impact various cities around the United States.
"We know that all healthcare markets are local, so we wanted to give an idea within specific geographic regions, what does the status of the OB-GYN workforce look like," said Whaley.
In Sacramento, only 13.5 percent of OB-GYNs are under the age of 40. This ranks Sacramento 14th in the nation in terms of cities with the lowest percentages of young OB-GYNs, indicating a higher risk of shortages due to impending retirements. Thirty-eight percent of OB-GYNs in Sacramento are over the age of 55.
Las Vegas, Orlando and Los Angeles are the three cities with the highest risk for an OB-GYN shortage.
“The worst case scenario would be difficult access for patients to actually get adequate prenatal care,” said Dr. Amit Phull, Doximity’s medical director.
Dr. Gary Leiserowitz, professor and chair of the obstetrics and gynecology program at UC Davis, says he sees the risk for a shortage indirectly in Sacramento.
“One indication is we have no problem with our residents getting jobs – even in the community, which is not so typical,” said Leiserowitz. “The need for OB-GYNs in our community seems pretty significant based on how easy it is for residents to find positions in this community.”
It is programs like the one at UC Davis that could most directly address this need, by adding more positions for residents in the OB-GYN program. But Leiserowitz said that’s much easier said than done.
Funding for residency spots comes through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
“It’s very hard to get additional funding from them,” said Leiserowitz.
With that said, Leiserowitz says his department is hoping to add an additional resident in the coming year or two, which would bring the total number of OB-GYN residents at UC Davis to seven. One way to do so would be to partner with another hospital, which could help underwrite the costs associated with educating a resident.