OB-GYN shortage challenges expecting rural mothers - KBJR 6 Your Weather Authority: News, Weather & Sports

OB-GYN shortage challenges expecting rural mothers

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Already raising two girls, Kasie Gokee thought she knew what she was getting into when it came to delivering her third child last month.

"This last one," she said. "I can't wait to tell her. I can't wait to tell her what we went through."

Already traveling about 40 minutes to get to Ashland Memorial Medical Center, she and her doctor planned a c-section, but when it came time to do a spinal block those plans went out the window.

"The first guy couldn't get it and then another guy comes in," Gokee said. "He tried about 10 to 15 times and the next guy comes in. He tries about five and then they got it and it didn't work."

She said no one knew what to do next.

"And my doctor I look over at him and he says, 'Well, I'm just a family practice doctor,' like shrugging his shoulders, 'I'm just a family practice doctor.' I said, 'Well is there someone who can come in here and do this then?' And that's when I learned when I was halfway under on the operating table that there was no OB-GYNs in Ashland."

Gokee then packed her bags, and headed out on the nearly two hour trip to Duluth. 

It's a trip St. Luke's OB-GYN Dr. Jennifer Boyle said is becoming more and more common for rural mothers. 

She said St. Luke's sees patients from as far north as the Canadian border... and as far east as the Upper Peninsula, as well as Western Minnesota.

"As you can imagine the patient herself has a lot of anxiety about you know how can I get to the hospital on time but we're also worried about what's going to happen if she is in rip roaring labor you know coming down highway 61 or coming from the Ashland area or somewhere like that," Boyle said

She says it's difficult for OB-GYNs to find enough work to support themselves in rural communities. She said it takes a population of roughly 20,000 people to support one OB-GYN.

"But if you're the only one then you're on call all the time," she said.

Despite her experience Gokee said she's thankful she came to Duluth.

The c-section went smoothly and her daughter, Selena, was born without complications.

"It did take awhile for Duluth to get the baby out and I just think what if we would have stayed and the family practice doctor, what if they couldn't have gotten to the baby in time or what if they nicked one of my organs if they were fused together? What if they what it anything could have happened?" she said.

Gokee still sees her doctor in Ashland, as she continues to raise her newborn daughter.

She said he has since apologized for her experience.

However, if Gokee could do it all over again, she says she'd go straight to Duluth and suggests all expectant mothers in rural areas of the region, do the same. 

"I don't want that to happen to anybody else," she said. "That was just a nightmare."

We called Memorial Medical Center in Ashland and they sent us the following statement regarding Gokee's experience:

"Every case is different especially concerning C-sections with complications.  We make decisions based on the individual needs of the patient and recommendations from their physician. Our goal is always to provide safe care for the mother and the baby. In rural health care that means carefully evaluating the right care at the right time in the right place."

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