Changes to obstetric and gynecology services at three area hospitals have some patients confused about where to go for care, Beaufort Memorial Hospital officials say.
The opening of the women's pavilion at Coastal Carolina Hospital on June 12, the closing of Naval Hospital Beaufort's emergency room and OB/GYN services June 1, and a shuffling of obstetricians at Beaufort Memorial this spring have left some women unsure where to find services or doctors, according to Beaufort Memorial Hospital CEO Rick Toomey.
Toomey said the hospital has received several calls about its OB/GYN services since the changes, with some women even wondering whether the hospital still delivers babies.
He and chief medical officer Dr. Kurt Gambla assure them that it does.
"There are a lot of dynamics going on right now," Toomey said. "Between the change in the environment and the excitement of delivery, the mothers want to know the lay of the land."
After 70 years and thousands of babies, Beaufort Memorial has no plans to stop deliveries, Toomey said. The hospital is equipped to handle newborns that require intensive care, and its partnership with the Medical University of South Carolina allows it to transport patients needing more complex care to the Charleston hospital, Gambla said.
Coastal Carolina Hospital delivered its first baby in eight years this month, joining Beaufort Memorial and Hilton Head Hospital to provide the area with three maternity wards.
In Beaufort, prenatal patients at the Naval Hospital have typically delivered at Beaufort Memorial Hospital during the past decade. About 400 of Beaufort Memorial's 1,500 deliveries each year were from Naval Hospital patients, chief nursing officer Karen Carroll said.
Since Naval Hospital Beaufort ended OB/GYN services -- part of the U.S. Navy's shift in treatment methods -- many patients moved to Beaufort Memorial Hospital for prenatal care.
The hospital has also seen an 8 percent rise in emergency room visits by patients using the military's TRICARE insurance since the Naval Hospital's emergency room closed, Toomey added.
Before Coastal Carolina Hospital opened its women's pavilion, six obstetricians left the women's clinic at Beaufort Memorial to open practices at the Hardeeville hospital.
Beaufort Memorial has since hired four new physicians -- one from Beaufort, two from the Upstate and one from North Carolina -- to staff its women's clinic, which is adjacent to the main hospital building on Ribaut Road.
Gambla said Beaufort Memorial is also prepared should a woman show up at the hospital in labor, unsure which hospital to go to.
"We're very collegial," he said. "We will do the safest thing, what is best for the patient. We aren't going to turn anyone away, and we'll coordinate with the private physician. We don't want people to panic."
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