February 17, 2005

$1.3 Million Grant Delivering New Birthing Center For SCMH

The West Wing is a famous television show about the White House. The East Wing is soon to be the new famous addition to the Scotland County Memorial Hospital in Memphis. Thanks to a grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) the local hospital will be constructing a new birthing center. The OB addition will be funded by a $1,318,255 grant from MFH, which in February awarded 15 other grants across the state totaling more than $7 million.

“This was one of those rare projects,” said Heather McClurg of MFH. “During the review process we list strengths and weaknesses for each proposal, but for this grant application there simply were no weaknesses. Clearly this project is needed for improved OB services in the area.”

Aging facilities, lack of trained staff and unwillingness of physicians to do OB in rural areas are causing a rapid decline in rural hospitals with OB departments.

With four county hospitals shutting down their OB facilities in the last two years, SCMH has become the only birthing facility within a 1,500 square mile radius. In 2004 SCMH witnessed a 30-percent increase in census for the OB department. The hospital administration feels this increase likely will continue to grow as the hospital expands to offer clinic services in Schuyler County.

“We have witnessed OB departments closing everywhere,” said SCMH CEO Marcia Dial. “Many facilities have not been able to update, while more physicians are unwilling to deliver babies,” she said. “We don’t have that problem here. We have an outstanding group of physicians that provide OB services and now thanks to the Missouri Foundation for Health, we will have a state-of-the-art facility too.”

The grant will allow the hospital to purchase up-to-date equipment and hire more trained OB staff. Along with the collaboration of several area organizations, new services will include family-centered maternity care, free-of-charge prenatal classes, home visits and follow-up care.

While serving five counties, SCMH’s new birthing center project will reach out to the main resources available in the target counties of Scotland, Clark and Schuyler, including existing physician practices, county health departments, WIC programs, the Department of Social Services’ Children’s Division, county school systems and the federally qualified health council.

“All partners involved in the Childbirth and Beyond project have a deep commitment to the health and well being of our communities and a willingness to work together to make this project successful and sustainable in the future,” the application stated. “By linking together the resources at hand, we will be able to address the issues of improved health habits for our targeted population of uninsured and underinsured mothers and babies.”

The center of the “Childbirth and Beyond” proposal is the actual birthing center. But the grant, along with matching funding from the hospital that will bring the total cost of the three-year project to more than $2.28 million, will also include adding staff to the OB department as well as equipping the new facility with state-of-the-art technology.

The new birthing center will be built adjoining the east end of the hospital, north of the Memphis Medical clinic.

“This location will serve a dual purpose, not only connecting the facility to the hospital but also allowing easy access for the physicians who can easily access the OB wing from the clinic,” said Dial.

Dial indicated the hospital is entering the design phase of the project with groundbreaking expected sometime this spring. The grant calls for the project to be completed this fall.

Once the building is completed, the MFH grant will join with the SCMH in spending more than $600,000 to purchase three new birthing beds, radiant infant warmers, delivery room lighting, a C-section table, sonogram and ultrasound machinery, portable x-ray and fetal monitoring equipment.

The grant application cited a need to provide extensive pre-natal classes, instruction and information on breast feeding and its benefits, and other specialty classes to be provided in Scotland, Clark and Schuyler County.

SCMH CEO Marcia Dial noted this will be one of the key components of the project.

“We will have regularly scheduled OB Days here [Memphis], and at Lancaster and Kahoka, where our OB nurses will dispense pre-natal, nutritional and other educational information,” Dial said. “We will be there to offer whatever resources these young mothers need.”

In addition to the clinic work, the grant also calls for cooperative educational efforts through the schools in the three counties. The school projects will focus on education regarding healthy bodies for the future, which ultimately will promote healthy pregnancies for future mothers. The grant noted that health department funding for such programs has been reduced since 1992, creating a gap in education funding.

The community education programs will include pre-natal and post-natal education.

“From the first visit at the physician’s office with a positive pregnancy confirmation, the projects will activate appropriate referrals,” the grant stated.

Expecting mothers will be referred to the birthing center for pre-natal classes, to county health departments for available resources and WIC programs. Other offerings will include education covering nutritional assistance, effects of smoking on the fetus, tracking of pre-natal visits, and risk assessments (with referral to tertiary facilities for high-risk pregnancies).

After the delivery in a safe, well equipped, well-staffed facility, the project will offer post-natal home visits, breast feeding instruction, risk assessment, and parent skills assistance in the home at three, six, nine and 12 months.

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