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Friedman S, Shaw JG, Hamilton AB, Vinekar K, Washington DL, Mattocks K, Yano EM, Phibbs CS, Johnson AM, Saechao F, Berg E, Frayne SM. Gynecologist Supply Deserts Across the VA and in the Community. Journal of general internal medicine. 2022 Sep 1; 37(Suppl 3):690-697.
BACKGROUND: The Veterans Health Administration (VA) refers patients to community providers for specialty services not available on-site. However, community-level specialist shortages may impede access to care. OBJECTIVE: Compare gynecologist supply in veterans'' county of residence versus at their VA site. DESIGN: We identified women veteran VA patients from fiscal year (FY) 2017 administrative data and assessed availability of a VA gynecologist within 50 miles (hereafter called "local") of veterans'' VA homesites (per national VA organizational survey data). For the same cohort, we then assessed community-level gynecologist availability; counties with < 2 gynecologists/10,000 women (per the Area Health Resource File) were "inadequate-supply" counties. We examined the proportion of women veterans with local VA gynecologist availability in counties with inadequate versus adequate gynecologist supply, stratified by individual and VA homesite characteristics. Chi-square tests assessed statistical differences. PARTICIPANTS: All women veteran FY2017 VA primary care users nationally. MAIN MEASURES: Availability of a VA gynecologist within 50 miles of a veteran''s VA homesite; county-level "inadequate-supply" of gynecologists. KEY RESULTS: Among 407,482 women, 9% were in gynecologist supply deserts (i.e., lacking local VA gynecologist and living in an inadequate-supply county). The sub-populations with the highest proportions in gynecologist supply deserts were rural residents (24%), those who got their primary care at non-VAMC satellite clinics (13%), those who got their care at a site without a women''s clinic (13%), and those with American Indian or Alaska Native (12%), or white (12%) race. Among those in inadequate-supply counties, 59.9% had gynecologists at their local VA; however, 40.1% lacked a local VA gynecologist. CONCLUSIONS: Most veterans living in inadequate-supply counties had local VA gynecology care, reflecting VA''s critical role as a safety net provider. However, for those in gynecologist supply deserts, expanded transportation options, modified staffing models, or tele-gynecology hubs may offer solutions to extend VA gynecology capacity.