A Message from Alexander J. Hatala, President and CEO, Lourdes Health System.
Recently, the New Jersey Prenatal Care Task Force issued a startling report regarding the access and utilization of prenatal care services. It’s well documented that high quality prenatal care reduces premature births which can result in serious, lifelong health problems. New Jersey is the second wealthiest state, yet ranks 40th in terms of women accessing early prenatal care.
As a healthcare provider with facilities in Camden and Willingboro, this is a reality we see every day. Based on indicators, Camden is number one for the likelihood of women giving birth to unhealthy babies. Willingboro also is high on the list — ranking seventh statewide.
At the Lourdes Health System it is our mission to make a difference in the lives of women who struggle with the issue of access to care. At Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, we offer high-quality bilingual prenatal care, education and counseling through our Osborn Family Health Center. At Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County we operate a prenatal clinic. Both are focused on populations most at risk — teenagers, the poor and those without insurance.
Despite these good efforts, Lourdes and other providers struggle with the financial realities of doing more. We’ve just been through more budget cuts. Smart funding is needed to:
- Develop initiatives that reach women early in their pregnancies;
- Increase capacity of existing programs that work and develop new models of care; and
- Support ob/gyns who wish to practice in the state, but are prohibited by high malpractice insurance and threats of liability, forcing them to leave or reduce services.
We only need to look at our neighbors in Philadelphia to see a cautionary tale: yet another hospital was recently forced to eliminate maternity services, further burdening an already fragile system.