It was already difficult to get gynecology and obstetrics appointments in Teton County. Brittany Quinn, a women’s health nurse practitioner in Alpine, said she heard from patients who have encountered five-month-long wait times.
But, when the Women’s Health and Family Care Clinic announced its closing next month due to high rent and labor costs, Quinn decided it was time to step in.
“I knew that something needed to change, and I could help be a part of that,” Quinn said.
Starting in December, she said she’ll be renting a space at Kilter Sports Performance and Physical Therapy in south Jackson a couple times a month to provide routine care like annual exams, pap smears and STD testing — and help prevent diseases like cervical cancer.
“A lot of issues in the women’s health realm can be prevented,” Quinn said. “So catching those things early and keeping an eye on it can really help the progression of the disease.”
As a nurse practitioner, Quinn doesn’t deliver babies or provide abortions.
A representative from Gros Ventre OB/GYN said their clinic is accepting new pregnant patients, but appointments are three months out.
And doctors from the soon-to-close Women’s Health and Family Care clinic — some of whom provide abortions — say they’ll see patients again next year either at the local hospital or private practices.
That clinic serves thousands of patients seeking a wide range of care, according to one of the providers, Dr. Giovannina Anthony. She said patients come from neighboring counties, such Lincoln and Sublette, to access their services.
People have also traveled around five hours from Eastern Idaho to get abortions, Anthony said in previous interviews with KHOL, since the care is illegal in the Gem State.
For at least several weeks this winter, the region’s closest abortion provider will be Wellspring Health Access in Casper, more than four hours away. The president of that clinic, Julie Burkhart said in a statement that she was sad to hear about the Jackson clinic closing its doors.
“Patients deserve access to safe, legal abortion care in their communities, and the loss of this provider will make it even more onerous to patients from across the region,” Burkhart said, promising to continue providing reproductive health care to patients across the Mountain West.
The closure of the women’s clinic comes on the heels of another local OB/GYN shutting her doors also partly due to high costs in the region.
Quinn said she doesn’t expect affordability to be a barrier for her, since she’s only renting a space in Jackson every other Thursday. She’s also currently a one-woman operation, which cuts down the costs of labor.
Jackson isn’t the only place seeing a shake-up in women’s health care. Amid bans on reproductive rights and financial difficulties, OB/GYN clinics and maternity wards have been closing nationwide in recent years. One report says over 32 percent of counties in the U.S. are “maternity care desserts.”
“It’s a concerning trend that should be addressed by someone,” Quinn said.
This story has been updated to include comments from Wellspring Health Access.