Volunteer Hospital Pursues Partnership for Patients' OB Needs

Donna Barfield

Expectant moms have 24/7 increased level of care

Over the last decade, increasing hospital closures and shrinking budgets have led to declining access to hospital obstetric (OB) care in rural areas across the country. These closures increase the burden on women and families living in rural communities, who often must drive long distances for prenatal visits and delivery. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 28 million reproductive-age women living in rural areas of the United States but the number of hospitals in rural areas providing obstetric care has decreased over the past two decades. These hospital and OB unit closures mean rural women in labor increasingly face lengthy journeys to the hospital, sometimes even hours long.

Expectant mothers in Northwest Tennessee no longer have those issues because access to a board-certified Obstetrician is available 24 hours a day at Volunteer Hospital in Martin.

In October, Volunteer followed the lead of its sister facility, Jackson Madison County General Hospital and formed a partnership with the largest dedicated OB/GYN hospitalist provider in the country, OB Hospitalist Group (OBHG) of Greenville, South Carolina to implement an OB Emergency Department. West Tennessee Healthcare's Volunteer Martin and Jackson Madison County General Hospitals are the only two facilities in West Tennessee to have dedicated Emergency Departments for OB patients.

An obstetrics emergency department (OB-ED) replaces the labor and delivery nurse triage and converts emergency services for pregnant women to a department that works in conjunction with the main ED. It is staffed by a board-certified OB/GYN physician. For women who would normally be sent to labor and delivery for emergencies after 20 weeks, an OB-ED offers them a chance to see a hospitalist physician relatively soon after presentation. Staffing the OB-ED program requires around-the-clock physician coverage as well as at least one specialized labor nurse, which most ED triage units already have in place. Most OB-EDs are in the same space hospitals use for labor and delivery triage

An OB hospitalist refers to an OB/GYN who has minimal outpatient and elective surgical responsibilities, and whose primary role is to care for hospitalized obstetric patients and to help manage obstetric emergencies that occur in the hospital.

As the nation's largest and only dedicated OB/GYN hospitalist provider, OBHG is a recognized leader in elevating the quality and safety of women's healthcare. Through this partnership, Volunteer Hospital has an OB clinician in the hospital 24/7. This reduces delays in emergent OB/GYN care, improves outcomes, reduces wait times and increases patient satisfaction compared to traditional triage models. In addition, OBHG hospitalists are available around the clock offering collaborative, non-competitive support for local OB/GYN physicians.

"There have been two hospital closures in our market which have resulted in patients leaving the West Tennessee area for women's services," said Donna Barfield, Chief Nursing Officer at Volunteer Martin. "When an OB patient is experiencing a complication or has a concern, she can present to our OBED located in our Maternity Center where she will be promptly seen and treated by an experienced Board-Certified OB/GYN. This improves quality of care and patient outcomes."

This new service enhances patient safety as well as care by ensuring that a board-certified physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology is in the hospital and immediately available at all times, 24 hours a day, seven days of the week, every day of the year. The OB hospitalist program's additional support also means consistent care for unassigned or uninsured patients, rapid response for emergency care and quicker consults for gynecological emergencies in the ED or surgery.

"Having an OB/GYN hospitalist program at Volunteer Hospital means pregnant women can be confident an experienced obstetrician will be delivering her baby, even if her own provider can't be present," said Barfield. "In addition to board certification, OBHG team members have received special training in advanced fetal monitoring, risk management, operative delivery, coding and compliance and advanced cardiac life support.

Darrell Blaylock

"This new service underscores Volunteer Hospital's commitment to quality in our maternal care program. Having an OBED improves patient access to specialist care and enhances patient safety and outcomes," said Darrell Blaylock, CEO Volunteer Hospital. "These highly experienced obstetricians provide care for patients who come in through our dedicated emergency department with an obstetric emergency and for those who have no physician."

To further enhance Volunteer Hospital's OB program, certified nurse midwife, Beckie Johnson has joined West Tennessee Medical Group. She has over 9 years of experience delivering babies at Volunteer Hospital and was previously a Registered Nurse in our Maternity Center. She will continue to see patients in the outpatient setting and will receive assistance from the OBHG in the hospital setting, if needed.

"Jackson Madison County General Hospital has partnered with OB Hospitalist Group for several years. With more than 150 programs nationwide, OBHG is the largest dedicated OB/GYN hospitalist provider and their program has become the industry standard for excellence," said Barfield. "Our program utilizes a core group of eight Board-Certified OB/GYN's from the OBHG group that work on a rotating schedule. This group of physicians has been warmly received by patients, our community, and hospital staff. The comments we have received from patients and their family members have been overwhelmingly positive."


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