TUPELO – A year-long partnership between the March of Dimes and North Mississippi Medical Center Women’s Hospital couldn’t have yielded any better results.
As part of a national initiative to reduce medically unnecessary early deliveries, the Tupelo hospital reported the number of elective deliveries before 39 weeks gestation dropped to zero in 2013.
“They have really led the state with their efforts,” said Dina Ray, the state’s March of Dimes director.
Babies born between 37 and 39 weeks gestation face higher rates for hospitalization and illness than babies that arrive at full term – between 39 and 41 weeks. Reducing the number of unnecessary early deliveries is the first step in improving Mississippi’s worst-in-the nation rates of premature births and infant mortality.
“While there will still be babies born prior to 39 weeks for fetal or maternal complications, we hope we can eliminate unnecessary elective deliveries prior to that time,” said Tupelo obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Ronny Young, who serves as chief of the NMMC medical staff.
NMMC Women’s Hospital already was below the national average for medically unnecessary early deliveries, said registered nurse Pat Chosich, the NMMC Women’s Hospital outcomes manager. A survey of records found 14 cases in 2012 where babies were delivered before 39 weeks gestation by Caesarian section or induction without noting a medical reason for the early delivery – about 4 percent of deliveries. The national average is 5 percent.
NMMC Women’s Hospital and University of Mississippi Medical Center were the two Mississippi hospitals selected by March of Dimes to receive tracking software and materials in late 2012. The hospital worked with obstetricians to establish policies. Any scheduled inductions or Caesarian sections had to meet established criteria. If there was a question, the case was referred to Young and a peer review process.
“It’s all evidence based,” Chosich said.
Although changes in practice took a little adjustment in the beginning, the program has been well-received.
“The doctors were great about it,” said Casey Peeples, a nurse educator who served as the point person for scheduled inductions.
Now 33 of the state’s 43 birthing hospitals have pledged to work together with the March of Dimes, physicians groups and public health officials to reduce early, unnecessary deliveries, Ray said. Six hospitals, including NMMC Women’s have shown they are at or below the national benchmark of 5 percent elective deliveries.