20 years of prenatal care

By on January 4, 2012

By: ROCHELLE A. SHENK Review Correspondent, Staff Writer



Ephrata Community Hospital's Healthy Beginnings Plus program is celebrating its 20th anniversary of providing prenatal care for low-income women. Members of the staff include (front row, left to right): Donna Dittrick, medical secretary; Marcia Stoesz, RN, BSN; and Kathy Edwards, RNC, program coordinator; (back, l-r): Mary Wubbolt, dental hygienist; Nancy Shrader, secretary; Tina Friesen, RN, BSN; and Rose Ackerman, RNC. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)Ephrata Community Hospital's Healthy Beginnings Plus program is celebrating its 20th anniversary of providing prenatal care for low-income women. Members of the staff include (front row, left to right): Donna Dittrick, medical secretary; Marcia Stoesz, RN, BSN; and Kathy Edwards, RNC, program coordinator; (back, l-r): Mary Wubbolt, dental hygienist; Nancy Shrader, secretary; Tina Friesen, RN, BSN; and Rose Ackerman, RNC. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Ephrata Community Hospital’s Healthy Beginnings Plus (HBP) celebrates its 20th anniversary of providing prenatal care for low-income women. ECH’s HBP program is part of a statewide HBP program for low-income pregnant women who are eligible for Medical Assistance.

Since the program was established at ECH in 1991, approximately 2,500 women have used the it’s services at some point during their pregnancy, and approximately 2,000 babies were born at ECH after their mothers received services through HBP.

Kathy Edwards, HBP coordinator, who helped establish the clinic, said, "It’s a comprehensive program. Our nurses and staff including social workers not only care for them during their pregnancy, but will also meet with them to discuss labor and baby care after the delivery. It’s a very personal program with a lot of one-on-one attention."

Edwards said that although a large percentage of the women are from the Ephrata area, and HBP programs are available at other area hospitals including Lancaster General Health’s Women and Babies Hospital, some women do come to ECH’s program from throughout the county as well as from other areas including neighboring Berks County and York County.

"Many of the women come to us through word-of-mouth referrals," Edwards said. "I think that says a lot about our program– the quality of our staff and the one-on-one attention that we provide."

Referrals may also be provided by other social services programs such as WIC (Women Infants Children), CAP (Community Action Program) as well as schools or physician offices owned by the Ephrata Hospital system. HBP is funded through the state’s Medicaid program through the state Department of Public Welfare.

HBP’s clinic is located in the Medical Office Building adjacent to ECH at 169 Martin Ave., Ephrata. Patients are cared for by providers from Ephrata Community OB/GYN throughout their pregnancies, participate in educational programs, access social services as needed and prepare for a healthy delivery. The clinic is staffed by OB/GYN physicians, midwives, social workers, dietitians and nurses; all the nurses are RNs with labor and delivery experience.

Edwards is an RN with over 14 years labor and delivery experience prior to establishing the clinic. She said, "I’ve seen the beauty of what this program had done in the hospital over the years."

Prior to HBP, Edwards said that patients may have come in for delivery without any prenatal care. While there were prenatal clinics in Lancaster or the Reading area, low income moms may not have been able to avail themselves of those services due to lack of transportation.

"A lot of times the moms were OK, but the baby may have had some issues," she said. "Since we didn’t have a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), we sent the babies to Hershey or Philadelphia for care. Now that we have our clinic {HBP} we have healthier moms and babies.

ECH’s program has also established relationships with specialists, so that patients needing additional care can receive it both during the pregnancy and afterwards. In 2007, ECH’s HBP established a partnership with St. Joseph Health Ministries, Lancaster, for dental care. Edwards said that through this partnership, a dental hygienist visits the clinic once a month to do a full-mouth assessment on patients. Patients also receive a one-on-one educational session about caring for their mouth and the mouth of their baby. There’s also an affiliation with Welsh Mountain Medical & Dental Center, New Holland, for dental work.

Edwards said that since the economic downturn there’s been an increased demand for HBP’s services.

"We’re getting a lot busier," she said. "We’ve seen patients from all parts of the spectrum– people who we would not have seen before."

HBP also has a very special project, Kymarie’s Closet, which was established in 2009. It is named for Kymarie Faith Gordon, whose mother was a HBP patient years ago. During her pregnancy, Kymarie’s mother learned the baby would likely have some health problems, and the staff helped her prepare for this. Kymarie was born prematurely, but is now doing well and will celebrate her seventh birthday in January.

Kymarie’s Closet provides baby care supplies to mothers in need. Edwards said that churches, civic groups, and ECH all contribute supplies to keep the closet stocked.

Through all of these various efforts, HBP has touched the lives of many and helped provide that healthy beginning for babies. More BEGINNINGS, page A4

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