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Will Your Hospital’s Maternity Ward Close?

When our country starts closing obstetrical units in hospitals because they “cost too much” money to operate, pregnant women need to pay attention because their babies are in serious trouble. Such was the case of the most recent casualty, South Seminole Hospital, a 200-bed hospital, that’s located within 30 minutes of my neighborhood.

More than 20,000 babies were born in South Seminole Hospital during the past 18 years, and many of the babies were delivered by a local obstetrician who died approximately three years ago. I recall sitting in the emergency room of the hospital with a fractured ankle and listening to a chime that used to ring every time a baby was born. It was a soothing and humbling sound knowing that a new life was making its grand entrance each time that chime rang. Now, it will be replaced with silence.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not unique to Florida. In 1997 the closing of a North Philadelphia hospital (Northeastern) affected six additional hospitals in the community and their 23,570 annual births. In my hometown of Brooklyn, New York, Long Island Hospital had an annual delivery rate of 2,800 babies, but still closed its doors to the community and sold the hospital as prime real estate to the highest bidder, citing low reimbursement rates and high premiums for malpractice insurance as the culprit behind the decision. The Bedford Stuyvesant community of Brooklyn lost St. Mary’s Hospital, a delivery center of thousands of babies in 2005. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

Confronting The “Empty Cradles” Of Infant Mortality

empty_cradles_logo.jpgI have gushed praise for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a long time. (Disclosure: I cut my teeth in journalism as a Journal Company employee way back in 1973. No ties since 1976.) As a mid-market newspaper facing all of the same hurdles as other newspapers, it consistently demonstrates tenacity and creativity in tackling vital healthcare issues in this country. The latest: A project called “Empty Cradles: Confronting Our Infant Mortality Crisis.”

While there is a great health/medicine/science team in place at the Journal Sentinel, I believe that much of the credit goes to the top — to editor Marty Kaiser, who clearly understands that healthcare issues are among the most important his paper can report on in serving public needs. Kaiser writes:

“The Journal Sentinel today takes on an issue we have too long ignored — the death of children before their first birthday. Infant mortality is a crisis not just of public health, but of ethics and morality. The rate at which infants die in our city is unacceptable. In 2011 we will examine the problem and point to solutions.”

The project is off to a great start, taking a global picture and focusing it locally. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

Live Birth, MRI Style

At the Charité Hospital in Berlin, researchers have built a specialty MRI machine with enough space to fit a woman undergoing labor. The Local, a German newspaper in the English language, is reporting that the first images of a baby moving through the birth canal have been captured, and that the mother and child are doing just fine. The clinicians involved in the project hope to be able to study why some women end up requiring a Caesarian section, while others do not.

More at The Local: MRI scans live birth…

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Pregnancy As A “Pre-Existing Condition”

Women who own individual healthcare policies, please take note. Should you become pregnant in the future, your individual healthcare policy might not cover your pregnancy.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times by Michelle Andrews was revealing. Andrews described the plight of a North Carolina biology teacher who subsequently left teaching after the birth of her twins. She became a small business owner and was covered under individual health insurance policies. However, when she became pregnant again, she had a rude awakening. Despite paying an insurance premium of $400 per month, her pregnancy wasn’t covered unless she had paid for a special rider, prior to becoming pregnant. Since half of all pregnancies are “unplanned” how can you pay for coverage six months in advance of an unplanned event?

On October 12, 2010, the Committee on Energy and Commerce produced a dismal report that revealed a total disregard and absence of concern for pregnant women and their unborn babies by the insurance industry. The Committee’s chairmen, Congressmen Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak revealed the following: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

Dental Fillings And Birth Defects: What Moms-To-Be Should Know

Although the first trimester of pregnancy is sacred, there will be patients who will encounter problems at that time. During the first trimester, the brain and the central nervous system develops from 6 to 10 weeks, a time period commonly known as organogenesis. To minimize the risk of developing birth defects, medications and invasive procedures are usually postponed until the arrival of the second trimester.

A recent article in the October 2010 issue of Ob.Gyn. News reported some disturbing findings: Dental fillings in the first trimester were linked to the development of a cleft palate. A cleft palate is a birth defect that has a slit in the roof of the mouth because it failed to close during the first trimester.

The article by Susan London described a study in Norway where pregnant women had dental filings in the first trimester and their babies subsequently developed cleft palates. Ideally, dental problems should be addressed prior to becoming pregnant, however that is not always an option. Dental problems can occur during pregnancy because of the increased calcium requirements of the fetus as well as hormonal changes of the pregnancy. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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