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MCHI Transitions to Shared Care Model for OB Care

Published on February 2, 2022

Memorial Community Health, Inc. (MCHI) has announced that obstetrical care provided through their clinic and hospital has transitioned to a shared care model.

A shared care maternity care management model is most often used in rural healthcare settings and standalone clinics and provides the convenience and consistency of receiving prenatal, postpartum and newborn care with one's local physician, while delivering at a larger facility nearby.

Through this model, MCHI's family medicine physicians who specialize in obstetrical care guide moms through their pregnancy and prenatal care. As part of the process, MCHI physicians collaborate with expectant moms and families to select an obstetrical physician nearby to share in care for the delivery. Together, both physicians focus on comprehensive, seamless care for moms and their babies throughout birth. Once baby arrives and families return home, the convenience of receiving postpartum, newborn, and family care at MCHI continues.

In deciding to move to a shared care model, a wide range of factors were taken into careful consideration by MCHI's physicians and administration, including the reality of staffing levels and the changing landscape of deliveries in a rural healthcare facility.

MCHI's family medicine physicians who specialize in obstetrical care are Dr. Jennifer Harney, Dr. Alexis Erbst, and Dr. Jeffrey Muilenburg. In regards to the transition, Dr. Erbst commented on the mixed emotions as well as positive aspects this decision brings to her and her colleagues.

"Obstetrics is truly a passion of mine as well as the other physicians and nurses at MCHI who provide OB care and have been involved in delivering babies here in Aurora," commented Dr. Erbst. "I'm excited to continue to be a part of a mother's journey throughout her pregnancy and care afterwards; however, the decision to close the doors to our labor and delivery unit was made with a heavy heart and was a decision we did not take lightly. The safety of our patients is and always will be our number one priority. Nationwide staffing shortages and the stressors it has placed on our healthcare facilities are factors that have only been further exacerbated by the pandemic. So when considering the place of delivery, we determined it was now time to draw from our resources at bigger hospitals, such as our larger hubs in Grand Island and Hastings."

Looking to the future and talking about the positive aspects of shared care, Dr. Erbst further commented, "While we are sad about missing out on the official "birthday party," we would like to continue to be a part of a mother's journey during her pregnancy and postpartum course. Offering shared care for our patients we feel brings the best of both worlds together."

Working closely with OB-GYN groups in both Grand Island and Hastings, or a provider of the mother's choice, MCHI physicians will be able to follow a mother throughout her whole pregnancy. Services such as ultrasound imaging, lab work, as well as the fetal monitoring that occasionally is required during higher risk pregnancies will continue to be available at MCHI.

Traditional childbirth classes focusing on prenatal, labor and delivery, postpartum, and newborn care will also be available at MCHI, as well as HypnoBirthing® classes for those who wish to learn additional relaxation techniques and methods for a gentle birthing experience. In addition, breastfeeding classes and support through MCHI's Certified Lactation Counselors, and Dr. Harney, who is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), also remain available as important resources for families.

"Overall, women have expressed a high degree of satisfaction with shared care and having their local physician provide as much care as possible," commented Lindy Flynn, RN, BSN, and Chief Operating Officer of MCHI. "We are here to serve our community and believe our new shared care model positions our organization to continue to offer high quality, safe OB care."

An MCHI patient who is experiencing the new model of care for her current pregnancy agreed to share her thoughts on the change. "I had my second child, Benjy, here," commented Allie Gomez. "At first, I was disappointed that I was not going to be able to deliver my third child here in Aurora. With my first son, Zeke, having been delivered in Colombia, and my second here, I was looking forward to delivering in a familiar place with my third. It will be a different experience again."

Speaking further about her views, Gomez added, "However, I'm glad to have a shared care experience with having the majority of my prenatal and postnatal care with Dr. Harney. I will also still be able to enjoy the convenience of just being 5 minutes away for appointments. I will be gone for about an hour versus a couple of hours or more if I were to doctor out of town. Overall, I'm really happy I can still do most of my OB care here in Aurora."

Another MCHI patient who has recently experienced shared care had several things to share about her positive experience. "Overall, my shared care experience went very well. I have three children, and with the pregnancy of my youngest child, who is now six months old, I doctored primarily in Aurora," commented Marcy Fuentes. "I'm thankful I was able to do the majority of my prenatal doctor visits close by. I also chose to have all of my postpartum care in Aurora as well."

While having her prenatal and postpartum care in Aurora, when talking about delivery, Fuentes said that, "We opted, however, to deliver in Grand Island with my OB/GYN physician there. Since our first child needed the NICU, we chose to deliver our second in Grand Island as well, and wanted to do the same for our third." Overall, Fuentes said, "I really appreciated having the best of both worlds - a provider here that I know and trust, as well as specialized care nearby for the delivery of my baby. I wouldn't be afraid of shared OB care, it was great for our family. It was nice for my delivery to be at a more specialized facility with my OB physician, but nice to come back home to be close to my doctor here after giving birth."

"We are excited about this new model, and hope to continue to share in the excitement around a pregnancy and follow the little ones from birth onwards," added Erbst. "The best part about Family Medicine continues to be that we can follow moms, dads, babies, grandmas, grandpas and every one in between."