Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Rural Alabama hospital to re-open labor unit; says it can be a model of success for other hospitals

A rural Alabama hospital has found a way to re-open a local labor and delivery unit and believes that success can be duplicated in other areas that lack such services, Anna Claire Vollers reports for The Huntsville Times. Only 17 of 54 rural Alabama counties have hospitals with labor and delivery wards.

John Waits is the director of Cahaba Medical Care, a Federally Qualified Health Center—meaning it's a primary source of medical care for those who are uninsured or who have Medicaid—that serves people primarily from rural Bibb and Perry Counties, Vollers writes. Nearly 100 percent of Cahaba's prenatal care patients qualify for Medicaid, but expectant mothers have to drive 45 minutes to deliver a baby because the local hospital, Bibb Medical Center, eliminated child birth services in 1999. (Wikipedia map: Bibb County)

"Driving longer distances for a monthly or weekly prenatal appointment is just not feasible for women who lack access to transportation, money for gas, or who work jobs where they can't afford to take leave," Vollers writes. "According to the Alabama Rural Health Association, in 2013 more than a quarter of expectant mothers in rural areas in Alabama had less than adequate prenatal care, which can lead to health complications for both mother and baby and higher rates of infant and maternal mortality."

"But thanks to a remarkable collaboration between Waits' practice and Bibb Medical Center's leadership, a federal grant, a capital investment and more than a few crossed fingers, a brand-new labor and delivery unit is scheduled to open at Bibb Medical Center this September," Vollers writes.

Waits told Vollers, "We had to keep all the other aspects of family medicine alive. We [the physicians in the area] work in the ER. We work in the nursing home. We work in the clinic. We see inpatients in the hospital. We've made every other piece of this healthcare system work, which has kept the hospital itself viable without labor & delivery."

Dr. Lacy Smith, Cahaba's chief medical officer, "applied for and received an expanded medical services grant available from the federal government through the Affordable Care Act," Vollers writes. "That gave Cahaba Medical Center the ability to hire a fourth physician to perform obstetrics and to hire the personnel necessary to staff a labor and delivery department at Bibb Medical Center."

Waits told Vollers, "The hospital healthcare authority, seeing our gesture of trust, was willing to make a $1 million-plus capital investment in a four-unit labor & delivery, trusting that we're going to help staff this thing and not change our minds." (Read more)

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