Foundation Health Partners temporarily suspends the OBGYN Department
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Foundation Health Partners (FHP), which oversees Fairbanks Memorial Hospital (FMH), is temporarily closing its Obstetrics and Gynecology (OBGYN) Department for clinical services at the end of this week due to a shortage in staffing.
Newborns can still be delivered at the hospital, although pre-natal and post-natal care may be limited. As for now, there will be no changes in labor and delivery services at FMH.
Tanana Valley Clinic, which is under the Foundation Health Partners umbrella will be suspending services due to the lack of providers who specialize in that department.
“We are just temporarily shutting down our clinical OBGYN, we are not shutting down Obstetrics within the hospital,” said Sr. Director of Operations Jennifer Carlson. “We will still be able to obviously deliver babies here within Fairbanks Memorial Hospital but we won’t be providing the clinical care at this time.”
Carlson said in the OBGYN Department, 3 out of the 4 current providers are expected to leave due to various reasons-- leaving one midwife to care for her current patients until the end of September. Currently, the department is in the process of recruiting physicians who specialize in OBGYNs, but this comes at a time when many hospitals around the country are in high need of those professionals.
“When you read about hospitals shutting clinics down, OBGYN seems to be at the top of the list,” Carlson said.
She said the national shortage may be due to many OBGYNs nearing their retirement age. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), predicts a shortfall of 8,800 obstetricians and gynecologists by 2020, and a loss of 22,000 OBGYNs by 2050.
“I am certainly a little disappointed that we cannot provide these services for our patients, however, we do have some great community partners who have stepped up and that have been willing to help our patients out,” Carlson added. “We have contacted all of our community partners and told them that we are closing and told them that we are going to have some needs for, obviously, our pregnant patients. They have been super helpful, and we provide a list to all of our patients of physicians they can contact.”
Several OBGYN specialists in Fairbanks that have privileges at FMH include Interior Women’s Health, Chena Health, and Dr. Peter Lawrason, an independent practitioner.
“There is not a specific timeframe; however, we are currently as of today, August 8, interviewing an OBGYN who will be available next year,” Carlson said. “Then at the end of the month, we are interviewing another OBGYN, which I feel very fortunate because right now OBGYNs are hard to find all across the country.”
Carlson said there have been several ads the hospital has put in place to find OBGYNs nationally. She said the candidates that they are interviewing are from out of state.
Even though the department has to step back momentarily, Carlson feels confident they can get their staff numbers back to accommodate the need at the hospital. “I am confident that we will be able to open our doors again,” she said cheerfully.
Carlson also emphasized that good care while you’re pregnant is important for preventing infant mortality. “I certainly think that services all throughout this community can assist with taking care of these patients,” she said. “They might not specifically be in OBGYN but you know our Emergency Department is great. We [also] have First Care that is always available to see these women.”
Women with a primary care provider can get prenatal and postpartum care from their providers. Those who receive care from Chief Andrew Isaac Center and Bassett Army Hospital can receive care from their OBGYNs.
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