Wisconsin women face barriers to quality health care

Study shows female doctors earn much less than male doctors
Posted at 12:19 PM, May 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-22 23:35:50-04

Where a woman lives in Wisconsin could determine the quality of her health care. While it's especially problematic for women having children, it impacts many more women.

The American College of Gynecologists recommends a woman first see an obstetrician/gynecologist between 13 years old and 15 years old, and continue well after childbearing years.

When Katelin Andelin of Kenosha learned she was pregnant for a second time, she discovered this concern. She delivered her son by cesarean section but didn't wish to deliver her twin daughters the same way.

"I can't imagine not being able to pick him up for six weeks afterward or needing to have someone help me to get up from a chair," she said.

Andelin researched her options and discovered she could try to deliver her twins naturally, per ACOG guidelines. But, when she asked for a list of doctors, there weren't any in Kenosha. Her choices were Milwaukee, Racine or Illinois.

"It's hard due to travel. I was working full time at the time, so I had to take time off of work for all these appointments. Especially with having twins you see a high-risk doctor every two weeks," Andelin said.

Andelin drove an hour each way all winter to see Dr. Sheldon Wasserman, an ob/gyn at Ascension Columbia St. Mary's and the chair of the Wisconsin Chapter of the American College of Gynecologists.

"I feel strongly we have to provide quality maternity care for everybody, and it should not matter where you live, but it does," Wasserman said.

The American Medical Association reports 20 Wisconsin counties have no ob/gyn doctors:

  • Dodge County has six doctors. That's one for more than 14,000 people.
  • Kenosha County has 16 doctors. That's one for more than 10,000 people.
  • Jefferson County has three doctors. That's one for almost 28,000 people.

ACOG tells the I-Team some doctors may practice in more than one county or a different county from the one they're counted in.

"I feel strongly we have to provide quality maternity care for everybody, and it should not matter where you live, but it does." — Dr. Sheldon Wasserman

But, even where there are adequate doctors, women might not get an equal standard of care.

"It's becoming a crisis," Wasserman said. "A lot of hospitals will look at their services, and they've shut down obstetrical services. We'll do surgery but we aren't competent to do safe deliveries anymore. It would be better for you to go somewhere else," he said many hospitals tell patients. He sees patients from across the state as a result.

Andelin recommends women facing limited options do their research and advocate for what they want, even if it means literally going the extra mile to get the care they want. She used the ACOG website for much of her research.