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Jan. 5, 2006

Public Citizen Survey Finds D.C. Medical Society Fabricated Obstetrician Shortage

Dozens More Obstetricians Are Delivering Babies in D.C. Than Medical Society Claims

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The D.C. Medical Society (MSDC) has grossly understated the number of obstetricians practicing in the District, according to a survey released today by Public Citizen. The survey, which sought to identify and determine the status of all District obstetricians, found that obstetric services are readily available and dozens more obstetricians are delivering babies in the District than MSDC claims.

“This study unmasks the D.C. Medical Society as a cynical fear-monger, willing to go so far as to exploit the anxieties of expectant mothers to push its political agenda,” said Jillian Aldebron, civil justice counsel for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, which conducted the survey. “These are the same scare tactics used by medical groups across the country: Create the perception of a doctor shortage then assert that it can be cured only by changes in the law that would shield negligent doctors from accountability when they injure patients and deprive victims of the compensation they deserve.”

The survey was prompted by MSDC’s oft-repeated warning that the District is hemorrhaging obstetricians, who MSDC claims are fleeing because negligence lawsuits have driven their medical malpractice insurance premiums sky high. The proof, so MSDC says, is that it surveyed 141 of the 151 ob/gyns listed in the 2005 Washington Physicians Directory and found that 61 had stopped delivering babies. This grim statistic, released in 2005, came on the heels of MSDC’s 2004 doomsday prognosticating, when another of its surveys found that nearly nine of 10 ob/gyns had moved, planned to move or were considering moving out of D.C.

Public Citizen identified all obstetricians delivering babies in District hospitals by examining medical directories, Web site listings and phonebooks. The results were unequivocally positive: Of 180 ob/gyns in the District, 113 are practicing obstetrics, 41 percent more than the 80 suggested by MSDC’s findings. Ninety-six percent of the 113 obstetricians, or 108, are currently taking new patients. Furthermore, these numbers do not include the 92 ob/gyn residents seeing patients and delivering babies at D.C.’s four teaching hospitals. 

Public Citizen’s findings directly refute the claims made by the medical society. The survey also reveals no evidence of an access-to-care crisis for pregnant women seeking obstetricians. On the contrary, the vast majority of D.C. obstetricians are operating below a full patient load.   If some obstetricians are closing their doors, it may be related to demographics, such as the declining number of women of child-bearing age living in the District, or the falling fertility rate. 

“It is unconscionable that a doctors’ association would use alarmist tactics to intimidate the very patients its members are sworn to serve,” said Aldebron. “Not only were our callers able to locate scores of available obstetricians, but some practices tried to recruit them as patients so aggressively that they had difficulty getting off the telephone without making an appointment.”

To read Public Citizen’s full report, including a description of methodology and sources, click here.

A list of all District ob/gyns contacted, practice locations, types of cases they handle and whether they are accepting new patients is available upon request.

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