Dr. James Wallace, Medical Director, and Jesus Hernandez, CEO, of Family Health Centers
Alan Fisher, CEO of Mid-Valley Hospital
Scott Graham, CEO of Three Rivers Hospital and North Valley Hospital
Collaboration has been key to the envisioning of a sustainable future for maternity services in Okanogan County. Included in this vision is a comprehensive obstetric support training and education program that will serve families from conception to early parenthood. It will also increase physician retention and strengthen the OB provider pool in Okanogan County well into the future.
As the plans for transitioning OB services from Three Rivers Hospital to Mid-Valley Hospital next year, we are working together to build a Maternity Center of Excellence that embodies the high-quality programs that each hospital has historically provided to expecting families in the county. This is supported by combining thin resources in one location to keep OB services sustainable in the county as opposed to struggling to maintain services in more than one location. A $100,000 Molina Grant awarded to Family Health Centers provides initial funding to begin this work this year.
Family Health Centers seeks to further whole-person care by building a collaborative system of care, bringing together community members, maternity care case managers, behavioral health providers, and medical providers to support healthy childbirth. Local EMS staff may be trained in obstetrical basic life support, and maternity care providers in obstetrical advanced life support. This will enhance patient-centered maternity care for our patients.
The thinking and decisions around the OB issue have been highly influenced by the following key challenges:
• Recruitment and retention: Despite best efforts to recruit physicians offering obstetrical care, a significant decline in the available labor pool throughout the nation puts rural areas at a disadvantage. This problem is escalated when trying to sustain multiple locations with other existing issues (aging facilities, low patient volumes, other staffing needs).
• Skills maintenance: While each hospital has or had a high-quality OB program, we have all heard from providers themselves, that to maintain sharp skills and credentials, there is a minimum number of deliveries (especially C-sections) that must be met. If we are to save OB from disappearing from this county, we need to build an OB center of excellence that inspires confidence not only for patients to choose local care, but also for medical professionals to choose to come work here.
• Declining birth rates: Declining birth rates are occurring across the country and are intensified in rural areas like ours. The cost to provide labor and delivery services is prohibitive with a smaller number of births.
We are grateful for the collaborative spirit in problem-solving this difficult issue. We look forward to serving our communities with the highest standard of care you deserve.