Sandersville OBGYN struggles to stay open after Labor and Delivery Unit closes at local hospital

SANDERSVILLE, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – 8 labor and delivery units in rural parts of Georgia have closed in the past 3 years. Pregnant women have to drive to other cities and OBGYNs are losing money. One Sandersville doctor wanted to retire in 3 years, but that may not happen.

“Since they shut down OB, my practice is down,” said Dr. Mohan Papudesu, the only doctor at The Women’s Health Care Center in Sandersville.

The practice isn’t seeing as many patients as last year.

“Once you stop OB, you lose almost 70% of business,” explained Dr. Papudesu.

The Washington County Regional Medical Center shut down its labor and delivery unit in 2014.

“The hospital stated that they’re losing money through OB department,” recalled Dr. Papudesu.

Washington County isn’t the only one. The Georgia Obstetrical and Gynecological Society says Burke Medial Center, Chestatee Regional Hospital, Cook Medical Center, Appling Health Care System, Smith Northview Hospital, Emanuel Medical Center, and Barrow Regional Medical Center have closed obstetrical units since 2012.

The labor and delivery unit closing at Washington County Regional Medical Center is making Dr. Papudesu’s practice lose money.

“I didn’t want to shut down all of a sudden. I wanted to try and see if I can make it with gynecology alone,” said Dr. Papudesu.

It’s a challenge that’s more difficult than he originally thought.

“It’s very, very hard to practice gynecology alone,” explained Dr. Papudesu.

The doctor isn’t the only person affected when labor and delivery units close. The Georgia OBGYN Society says closures mean longer commute times for pregnant women and those in labor. The organization’s research shows women who commute more than 45 minutes for their obstetrical services are 1.5 times more likely to deliver a preterm high risk child than women who drive less than 15 minutes.

“Because everybody knows I’m not providing full OB services, from the beginning, they go someplace else,” said Dr. Papudesu.

His patients choose another doctor in Milledgeville, Dublin, Macon, or Augusta.

“I usually send high risk patients to Augusta,” explained Dr. Papudesu.

If the women don’t have the means to get to the other doctor’s office, Dr. Papudesu will provide care until mid-pregnancy, but the women eventually have to see another doctor. The small number of women who go to Dr. Papudesu for prenatal care isn’t enough. He used to see 20 new patients a week. Now, he only sees about 5. After 13 years in Sandersville, he’s starting to look at other options. He thinks he will have to close down his practice.

“Most probably. I will try in a year and see if I can make it,” said Dr. Papudesu.

The CEO of the Washington County Regional Medical Center didn’t want to talk about the OB closure because he wasn’t in charge when it happened.

Categories: Local News, Washington County

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