Dec 13, 2021 - News

Midwifery practice once based at Hahnemann Hospital grows in new home

Midwife Rebecca Prosser helps a patient at Jefferson University Hospital.
Midwife Rebecca Prosser, left, helps a patient at Jefferson Health. Photo courtesy of Jefferson Health

Jefferson Health is expanding its midwifery program roughly two years after scooping up the practice from the now-defunct Hahnemann University Hospital.

Why it matters: The practice provides prenatal care at five of Philadelphia's eight city-run health centers through a city contract.

  • Many of the people who receive care at these centers are low-income and undocumented, said Laniece Coleman, director of the Jefferson Health midwifery program.
  • "This is an incredibly vulnerable population of people in Philadelphia who don't have access to just go find another prenatal care provider," she said.

What's happening: Jefferson Health, which had no midwifery services prior to acquiring the practice in late 2019, has more than doubled the number of midwives employed in the practice.

  • The hospital system is also growing the program beyond downtown, with midwives now located in Abington Township and New Jersey.

Flashback: Hahnemann University Hospital abruptly closed two years ago after the Center City hospital's parent company filed for bankruptcy due to financial losses.

  • The nearly 500-bed hospital housed emergency, operating and clinical services and employed around 2,500 people.
  • At the time of Hanhemann's closure, the practice had about 10 midwives on staff and was providing approximately 60% of the prenatal care at city-run health centers, said Owen Montgomery, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Jefferson New Jersey.

Of note: Drexel University College of Medicine had owned the midwifery practice based at Hahnemann, where it operated since the late 1990s.

How it works: The practice at Jefferson is made up of two dozen certified nurse midwives, who are licensed by the state.

  • The midwives are experts in low-risk, vaginal deliveries.
  • The practice also provides other services, including general women's health care, family planning and prenatal and postpartum care.

Between the lines: Births at Jefferson have increased by approximately 1,000 per year since the addition of the midwifery practice, Montgomery said.

  • Penn Medicine's Pennsylvania Hospital offers the only other midwifery practice in a city hospital, Coleman said.

Yes, but: Other hospitals in the city offer limited midwifery services.

What they're saying: Coleman, who previously directed the program when it was at Hahnemann, said the midwives were committed to staying together to ensure those receiving care at city-run health centers have "a place to go."

  • When midwives and doctors work together, data has shown that it improves patient satisfaction and lowers the cesarean section rate, Montgomery said.
  • "They have a lot of credibility in the community, and so it improves, sometimes, the rate of women actually coming for care," he said.

What's next: Jefferson plans to expand the existing midwifery practice within the Einstein Healthcare Network, following the merger of the two health care systems this year.

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