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May 27, 2014

Hospital works to reduce early deliveries

NEW CASTLE — Even in this age of convenience and technology, Mother Nature still knows best — especially about motherhood itself.

That’s the message Jameson Hospital, in partnership with VHA Inc., wants to convey to expectant mothers, health care professionals and the community at large.

Jameson and VHA, a national network of not-for-profit health care organizations working to improve patient safety, are continuing efforts begun early in 2013 to reduce the number of early elective deliveries.

Such births are defined as a scheduled delivery via induced labor or Cesarean section at less than 39 weeks without a medical reason. Pregnancies are considered full term at 40 weeks.

Dr. Karen Harris, a women’s health expert with VHA, explained that studies have shown babies born earlier than 39 weeks can have learning problems, immature lungs, ears and eyes and be underweight.

She also pointed out that one-third of a child’s brain growth takes place between 35 and 39 weeks of gestation.

Harris noted that while a mother might want to give birth early because it is convenient, the risks far outweigh the benefits.

“Mother Nature knows best and we should wait for spontaneous delivery,” she said. “In those last weeks, even the days matter.”

VHA contacted Jameson in the fall of 2012 about reducing early elective delivery rates.

“This was something that had been on the radar for several years, but partnering with VHA gave us the push to put policies into effect,” explained Madeline Melidona, patient care manager of Jameson’s maternity care center.

During the first phase of the initiative, which involved 27 hospitals nationwide, Jameson developed a “hard stop” policy.

Melidona explained that doctors whose patients want an early elective delivery are required to fill out forms detailing the reasons for the request. The paperwork is then reviewed and, if the request meets “recommended appropriate reasons,” the delivery will be scheduled.

“It’s made a difference and given us the sustainability to carry on,” Melidona continued. “We’ve found patients will listen to what their doctor says and realize that what we call MOP, or the misery of pregnancy, is not an appropriate indication for an early delivery.”

Prior to launching the initiatives, Jameson’s rate of early elective deliveries was 58 percent of the approximately 500 babies born annually at the hospital, according to Lisa Lombardo, director of public relations and marketing.

For the fourth quarter of 2013 and first quarter of 2014, the rate dropped to less than 2 percent.

While the significantly decreased number is below VHA’s goal of less than 5 percent, Douglas Danko, Jameson Health System president and chief executive officer, noted he’d like to see that number go even lower.

To help with that, the hospital Friday launched phase two of the program aimed at sustaining the lowered rate and increasing consumer awareness of the risks of early deliveries.

Only four of the initial hospitals were chosen by VHA to participate in the second part of the program, which includes an educational campaign.

“The message we want to get out is that infant health trumps convenience,” noted Dr. Kelly Palumbo, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Jameson.

Noting he’d like to see mothers-to-be as aware of the risks of early delivery as they are of the dangers of drinking, Danko said, “An informed mother is a very powerful thing.”


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