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Healthcare centers turning attention to women’s facilities

More and more hospitals in Mississippi are finding new ways to serve women with the construction of new facilities dedicated to women’s health — with the primary goal being the creation of a “one-stop shopping” experience for their health care needs.

According to research by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, an office within the Department of Health and Human Services, women seek more medical services and spend more money on medications than men in the United States. The women’s healthcare field as a distinct specialty apart from reproductive healthcare has been growing over the past decade, with more emphasis placed on approaching women’s health in an interdisciplinary fashion.

Studies show that Mississippi certainly has room for improvement in the area of women’s health. The 2004 National Women’s Law Center study on women’s health in America, titled

“Making the Grade on Women’s Health,” ranks Mississippi at the bottom of the 50 states in various indicators of attention paid to women’s health needs. Areas the report gave Mississippi a “satisfactory” score included:

• Percentage of women receiving first trimester prenatal care (83.8%)

• Percentage of women who reported binge drinking (4.7%)

• Percentage of women who made annual dental visits (60%)

• Rate per 100,000 of women suffering from AIDS (9.5).
However, other statistics were less hopeful:

• 50th in percentage of women who receive screening mammograms (67.6)

• 51st in percentage of women suffering from high blood pressure (33.6)

• 51st in maternal mortality rate (12.3 per 100,000)
“Mississippi consistently ranks near the bottom on women’s health issues,” said Shawn Lea, vice president for strategic communications for the Mississippi Hospital Association

National studies confirm that consolidating services catering to women under one clinical service results in better health outcomes for their patients. “Women’s health clinical centers have been shown to better integrate clinical services with research and training on women’s health,” according to Dr. Rosaly Correa-de-Araujo, senior advisor on women’s health at ARHQ, in an article published in “Women’s Health Issues 2004”. “Clinical care at these centers provided significantly more screening tests and counseling services and resulted in greater patient satisfaction when compared to women in benchmark samples.”

Updating services to conform to current trends in childbirth care is only part of the equation to emphasize unique needs in women’s health. While most of the state’s women’s centers do focus on maternity services, some have other diagnostic and treatment areas under their umbrella, Lea noted

St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson consolidated all of its services for breast health in its new women’s center facility, separate from its birthplace services. Central Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson offers various breast health services in its women’s center, as does Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto in Southaven and Riley Hospital in Meridian.

Greenwood LeFlore Hospital in Greenwood and Baptist Memorial-Golden Triangle in Columbus include osteoporosis diagnostic services in their women’s centers, while South Central Regional Medical Center in Laurel is unique in the state for offering special physical therapy and wellness services, including treatment for urinary incontinence, through their women’s health service.

Baptist Hospital took the concept even further, creating the Baptist Women’s Heart Clinic in 2003 in response to survey material that illustrated the risks of cardiovascular disease for Mississippi’s women — 61% of the patients screened for heart disease were women, and 60% of those women had multiple risk factors for heart disease. The facility continues to refine its women’s services with plans to construct a new medical tower housing cardiac and women’s services in self-contained units with their own entrances, according to Robby Channell, public relations director for Baptist Hospital.

The new building, approved by the Department of Health in late 2004, will link to existing facilities within the original building, according to the application filed with the Department of Health. Preliminary plans for the new facility include a dedicated entrance lobby to the women’s services unit on the lower level and a similar entrance for cardiac patients on the first floor, in addition to a new outpatient cardiac unit and a 24-bed short stay unit.

The second and third floors will house other cardiac services, while the fourth floor will hold a new well-baby nursery, the neonatal care unit and a 19-bed post-partum unit. The existing second and fourth floors will also receive renovations, including the existing labor-delivery-recovery rooms into more spacious suites.

One of the newest initiatives to create a facility dedicated to women’s health is the upcoming renovation of Forrest General Hospital’s (FGH) maternity ward and the construction of a new four-story women’s center to be completed in 2006, in conjunction with the Hattiesburg Clinic.

According to Tangela Boutwell, director of FGH’s Women and Children’s Center of Excellence, the hospital project will relocate its well-baby nursery, postpartum, and women’s unit beds to a new location on the fourth floor of the critical care tower. The new area will house 24 post-partum beds, nine gynecology beds, and 20 nursery beds.

The renovations are designed to bring the women’s services facility in line with what obstetrical patients expect from a labor and delivery ward, including rooming-in and family space, according to Boutwell.

The $8.5-million outpatient center will house office space for obstetricians, gynecologists, imaging and mammography services, bone density testing, lactation services and ultrasound facilities, as well as a state-of-the-art medical spa and an onsite coffeeshop, said Marianne Voorbrood, marketing director of Hattiesburg Clinic.

Focus groups were used to develop ideas for the new medical center renovations, according to Boutwell. Voorbrood said that Hattiesburg Clinic gathered information from their obstetrics/gynecology patients as well, focusing on ways to make healthcare more accessible.

“I think the goal was to make it as convenient for our new mom patients as possible,” said Voorbrood.

The additional focus on women beyond their childbirth needs is a trend that the Mississippi Hospital Association is glad to see, according to Lea. “These centers specialize in women’s health in all stages of life.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer at Julie Whitehead at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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