OB-GYN's concerned about pregnant women after hospital changes - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

OB-GYN's concerned about pregnant women after hospital changes

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LaPlace, La. — The new year brought about a change in St. John Parish that some health care professionals do not like.

"Mine was an emotional reaction initially, and then of course for the patients that we care for, thinking about how convenient it was for them to come to our office and be straight down the road to the hospital," said Rachel Bezdek, M.D., an OB-GYN in St. John Parish.

On December 31, River Parishes Hospital discontinued its obstetrics services, and doctors who delivered babies at the hospital say they and their patients were caught off guard.

"There's no obstetrical services between Kenner and Baton Rouge east to west, and north to south, Hammond to Thibodaux," said OB-GYN John McCrossen, M.D.

For Dr. Stuart Schultz, who is in the same practice as Drs. McCrossen and Bezdek, the situation is very personal.

"When the hospital opened I was still a resident at Charity [Hospital], finishing as they were drawing up the blueprints, and I was part of drawing up the blueprints for labor and delivery.  So I'm feeling the pain on a different level," said Dr. Schultz.

Hospital officials did not return calls from FOX 8 News for this story.  But in an October 23, 2012 news release announcing the change, interim hospital CEO Gerald A. Fornoff said, "River Parishes Hospital has always taken pride in providing mothers and their newborns with quality medical and nursing care. However, in recent years, the number of deliveries at our hospital has declined to an average of one delivery per day, which led us to make the difficult decision to discontinue our obstetrics services."

The concerned physicians concede the hospital has had competition from larger medical facilities.  "It is an older hospital, it's a smaller facility and they really have just not competed very well with the bigger facilities that are in town," continued Dr. McCrossen.

Still, the physicians worry about pregnant women in crisis mode.  "I've seen many, many instances where people were on their way into town to get to the bigger facility and didn't quite make it and ended up having to stop at River Parishes," said Dr. McCrossen.

The three doctors we spoke with said they are among just five practicing OB-GYN's in the parish, and up until the end of 2012 they used River Parishes Hospital almost exclusively to deliver babies. 

All three have now linked up with Tulane-Lakeside Hospital in Metairie for deliveries, but still operate their practice down the street from River Parishes Hospital.

"For obstetrical care, patients need a lot of visits and close follow-ups, so it's much more convenient for patients to continue to see us out here.  The bigger obstacle is what to do should problems arise where they need to get to a hospital," Dr. McCrossen stated.

Dr. Schultz said the news was an especially bitter pill for some families who had all of their babies delivered at this hospital.  "And they say, 'What are we going to do?' and they say 'I can't believe it,' disappointment," Schultz said.

Though they disagree with the hospital's decision, there is a flip side to what has occurred.

"I think with us moving to Tulane-Lakeside, I think that's going to be a plus for us because we now lose that obstacle that I think was limiting our ability to see more patients," said Dr. McCrossen.

St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom said she expressed her disappointment over the change to hospital officials.  She plans to meet with other health service providers and state lawmakers from the area to discuss future health care for the parish.

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