Prenatal center for uninsured opens upcounty
Shady Grove center part of county Maternity Partnership Program
Laurie DeWitt/The Gazette
Ten years ago, women like Gladis Lemus would have had few options for receiving prenatal care in Montgomery County. Lemus, a prep chef at a Rockville restaurant, is 35 weeks pregnant and uninsured.
Lemus, 34, received a check-up Monday morning at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital's new prenatal center in Germantown, part of the county's Maternity Partnership Program that provides prenatal care to uninsured and underinsured women. She travelled to the program site in Silver Spring when she was pregnant with her other two children, ages 4 and 10 months, but now the Rockville resident can see a nurse closer to home.
"I like the attention I get," Lemus said in Spanish as she sat on the examination table, her nurse acting as an interpreter.
The Maternity Partnership Program began in 1999 with Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, and Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park. Shady Grove joined in 2006, according to county nursing administrator Dianne Fisher and the Montgomery County Web site. Shady Grove operated its prenatal center out of the Piccard Drive Health Center in Rockville until October, when the center moved to 19735 Germantown Road. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was scheduled Tuesday.
"It's a wonderful program because it improves the health of the woman and of the baby," Fisher said last week. "It's a follow-through from the beginning to the end."
Eligible women receive prenatal care at the centers for a one-time co-pay of $350 and then deliver at the hospital, according to Fisher and Marisa Lavine, an Adventist spokeswoman. County employees meet with the women to let them know what other services are available, and nurses follow up with the children for two years.
The program began with about 800-1,000 women and served nearly 2,500 women in 2007, Fisher said.
Shady Grove's prenatal center is the only one staffed by nurse midwives, according to a statement from the hospital. The midwives, who work with the women until they deliver, are fluent in Spanish and discuss issues such as nutrition and family planning, according to Terry Francis, director of perinatal services at Shady Grove. They also make home visits and refer high-risk patients to physicians.
"The people who see the patients are midwives, so they spend a lot of time with them," Francis said Monday. "…I don't think they expect to get [that level of care]. Most doctors' offices don't even employ nurses anymore because it's too expensive."
More than 27,000 women in the county were uninsured at the end of 2004, according to a county report published last year. Seventy-nine percent of pregnant woman sought prenatal care during their first trimester that year, according to the report.
"The goal is to see them in the first trimester," Fisher said, adding that an objective of the program is to reduce infant mortality. For every 1,000 births in the county, seven babies die before their first birthday, according to the report. The figures vary depending on population — for instance, the infant mortality rate in the black community is 16 per 1,000 births.
"The sooner you see the mother, the healthier both the mother and the baby will be," Fisher said.