Rep. Yednock supports bill expanding loan repayments to obstetric doctors

Hospitals are seeing shortage of obstetric units

State Rep. Lance Yednock (D-Ottawa) is sponsoring a house bill focused on helping health care in rural communities.

To address the shortage of obstetrical services in rural communities, Yednock proposed House Bill 4303 that says if an obstetrical physician works at a privately owned rural health clinic in Illinois, they also can qualify for assistance under the state’s Loan Repayment Assistance for Physicians Act. The bill, if passed, would go into effect immediately.

Yednock said the previous act only allowed for obstetrical physicians to qualify for assistance if they were going to work at a 501(c)3 facility.

“This acknowledges the expansion of private facilities in rural communities,” Yednock said.

Between 2011 and 2021, 198 rural hospitals ceased to provide obstetrics, reported Tammie Sloup of the Illinois Farm Bureau in a recent article in FarmWeek.

“I’m afraid to say that it’s really the story behind the story of the hospital closure crisis. It’s the story behind the story of the pandemic, which is that we’re seeing the loss of these services in rural areas, creating virtual deserts of care for very important services,” said Michael Topchik, the national leader of The Chartis Center for Rural Health, during the National Rural Health Association’s Policy Institute on Feb. 8.

Nearly half of rural hospitals are operating with a negative margin (excluding relief funds), with two rural hospitals closing in 2021, he said. The $12.6 billion in pandemic relief payments has helped, but only temporarily.

Yednock said graduating physicians are enticed to join Northwestern or Loyola hospitals in the Chicago area and incentives are needed to attract doctors to rural communities.

— Tammie Sloup of the Illinois Farm Bureau contributed to this report.