Legislative committee to study emerging maternal healthcare ‘deserts’ in Wyoming

    Maternity healthcare has been identified as the No. 1 priority for the legislative Labor, Health and Social Services Committee to discuss this year.

    The topic arose in response to the “emergence of maternity deserts” in Wyoming, the committee co-chairs wrote in a letter to the legislative Management Council this week.

    “We’ve lost two of our maternity wards … at our hospitals in the last two years, and we have a third that’s under tremendous pressure right now,” Wyoming Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne told the Management Council during a Monday meeting in Cheyenne. “People (are) traveling 50-100 miles to give birth. So we’re really trying to work on how to save the existing services we have and then figure out how to recruit new services into parts of our state that we’re referring to as maternity healthcare deserts.”


    Wyoming Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, asked if the issue was “really unique to the maternity realm,” or if it was a problem with the healthcare system in general.

    “I thought there were places all over Wyoming where there was just a healthcare desert – not necessarily limited to maternity,” he said. “Should this be a broader look (at) what is causing these health care deserts generally?”

    Wyoming Sen. Fred Baldwin, R-Kemmerer, agreed that a lack of healthcare access in general represents a “very significant” problem statewide, but he added that the maternal healthcare issue is a “totally separate” topic.

    “If a person in a remote, rural community that has taken away their obstetrics services happens to have an obstetrics emergency while they’re in that rural community, (they might) go to the emergency room, and nobody in that hospital is now trained for obstetrics,” he explained. “That’s a travesty.”


    Citing a recent report showing that “nearly half of Wyoming counties lack” maternal healthcare, Wyoming Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, said the issue “is very specific to women’s healthcare.”

    “It is a significant concern regarding infant mortality and prenatal care and women’s healthcare in general,” she said. “I think that’s a troubling trend that needs to be corrected that goes beyond rural healthcare challenges.”

    The Labor Committee’s interim topic list says “understanding the landscape for current and future maternity health care providers will be essential to effectively address the state’s growing maternity deserts.”


    “The Committee will study ways to increase the number of labor and delivery and maternity health care professionals in Wyoming,” the list states. “The Committee will also review childcare access issues and availability and will consider legislation to increase childcare facilities throughout the state.”


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