Some Rural Counties in Georgia Don't Have Doctors. Lawmakers Want to Help.

August 21, 2018 AT 8:30 AM

By Ariel Hart

There is no doctor in all of Webster County, and the pharmacist there has seen the wreckage.

One woman’s first pregnancy visit was her trip to give birth. One patient has walked miles to Columbus for appointments. Some patients just don’t see a doctor.

“They have heart attacks and they die,” said Nikki Bryant, the owner of the county’s lone pharmacy, lodged inside her father’s grocery store.

Georgia’s Legislature is once again brainstorming legislation to address the state’s rural health care crisis. Sixty-four of 159 counties have no pediatrician; 79 have no obstetrician/gynecologist; and nine, like Webster, simply have no doctor. That makes Georgia worse than the national average for needy areas short of primary health care providers, according to federal data assembled by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Health outcomes for Georgia patients lag accordingly, with the state ranked among the worst 10 states for most measures.

When lawmakers return to their deliberations at the state Capitol in January, amid Fulton County’s 4,500 doctors, vast swaths of their constituents back home will be living in a different world. The legislators have repeatedly created health care study committees and passed some legislation. But a major fix remains distant.