Finding a hospital with trained doctors to manage pregnancy and childbirth, is one of the greatest provider shortfalls in the United States. According to a research conducted in 2017 by the University of Minnesota, it is also one of the most significant challenges faced by the mothers who live in rural South Dakota. Meanwhile, an increasing infant mortality rates linger to haunt South Dakota as the state’s only medical school assigns young ambitious OB-GYNs away from home to complete their training.

an increasing infant mortality rates linger to haunt South Dakota

Julie Larson smiled, holding her baby boy in her arms when she saw his tiny face bursting into a smile. Julie was still cheerful, although, she was sitting in a neonatal intensive careRural Maternity Care unit in Sioux Falls, miles away from her family farm, her two daughters, and her husband.

She just had her twin boys. Jack and Rudy. Distance is merely a reality for the Larsons; particularly when a new member comes to the family. Julie explains, “You do worry about it a little bit in case something randomly happens,” and she continues, “It was always in the back of mind.”

Why South Dakota moms drive farther?

Providing hospital-based care to rural families is laborious, regardless of the geography. However, mothers in rural South Dakota are worse off than most of their matches in other rural areas of the country. Nearly 2/3rd of the 58 rural counties lack hospitals with an OB/GYN physician. Only Nevada and Florida were worse. According to the data collected by the University of Minnesota from 2004 to 2014, many rural counties lost maternity care facilities, and many rural programs continue to disappear due to financial and workforce-related obstacles.

Closer attention could lessen infant deaths!

Drive time has become a big issue for pregnant moms and the unborn babies, said McKay, member of the state task force evaluating the causes of South Dakota’s higher-than-normal infant mortality rate, and an advocate for rural maternity care. McKay declared what they talked about was the access to first-trimester care. “There are places like Buffalo, South Dakota, and Newell, South Dakota — they’re three-hour drives from Rapid or Pierre. Some of them go to Billings (Montana). I don’t even know where all those women go.”

Aspiring OB/GYNs need to leave the state for training since there is no residency program in the state. The University of South Dakota trains approximately 60 prospective doctors per year. “They can complete medical school here but they have to leave the state to do four years of training in OB-GYN before they can come back to practice,” said Schipper, who is also an associate clinical professor for USD.

How can rural moms receive better maternity care?

Doctors with both Sanford and Avera have said the key to improving maternity care in remote parts of the state has been communication and working together hand in hand.
According to Schipper, “In a lot of cases in South Dakota, the rural family medicine doctor or nurse-midwife will provide a lot of the prenatal or postpartum care and the hospitals will do the delivery and neonatal care,”
That type of approach holds the key for improving care in this state, McKay announced.
“Connectivity will save us,” she proposed.



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