Bus to deliver care to pregnant mothers in New Orleans

Bus to deliver care to pregnant mothers in New Orleans
July 26, 2011

It’s not your average commuter coach.

The conspicuous bright baby blue and pink bus that will be traveling through parts of New Orleans is the new Mom & Baby mobile health center and looks exactly like a doctor’s office.

The mobile health center is part of an initiative between the Interim LSU Public Hospital and the March of Dimes to provide prenatal and gynecological care in Mid-City, Bayou District (the former St. Bernard housing development) and the Upper 9th Ward.

At a ribbon-cutting Tuesday, health officials announced that the mobile center will visit each area once a week for two-day periods and will provide services to women, mothers and children up to 2 years old. Services include screenings, prenatal and postpartum care, gynecological exams and immunizations.

Dr. Roxane Townsend, CEO of Interim LSU Public Hospital, said it’s important that women start their prenatal care the “right way” to ensure better outcomes for their children. Townsend said moving closer to the neighborhoods where services are needed is a part of helping women reach that goal.

“We want people to get the right kind of care as close to home as possible,” Townsend said. “We’re going to make sure the next generation of Louisianians have a better start.”

The mobile center costs $350,000 a year to operate and is financed through a 50/50 partnership between LSU and March of Dimes, said Jeannine Hinton, project coordinator for LSU healthcare division. Center operators said they expect to see 50 to 100 clients at each of the three sites. Medicaid, Medicare and major health insurance plans will be accepted but clients who are unable to pay will not be turned away.

The mobile health center is staffed by a nurse practitioner midwife, clinical nurse specialist and medical assistant under the supervision of a board-certified obstetrician. New moms will also receive postpartum care at two and six weeks after birth.

Amy Young, professor and chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the LSU School of Medicine, said the initiative is more than an opportunity to provide care to women and their babies. It’s a chance to provide more personal and sustained care for women who don’t have access, she said, and as the city continues to rebuild its healthcare services, the mobile unit gives providers flexibility to go to areas as they are needed.

The center has all the furnishings of a doctor’s office. There are two exam rooms with fetal monitors and ultrasound machines, a small waiting area and a nursing station for bloodwork and other testing. Young said they can also communicate with hospitals in a timely manner because they have computers that can access patient records.

Once a month at an onsite conference center, women with similar due dates will meet in groups throughout the first 28 weeks of pregnancy. They will meet twice a week during weeks 28 to 40 of pregnancy, officials said. The center also offers counseling before pregnancy and other education and health support services.

A provider will also be on hand to communicate with the hospital and provide general health care.

Frankie Robertson, state director for the March of Dimes’ Louisiana chapter, said the unit is part of the organization’s overall commitment to “healthy mothers and babies,” adding that care before and throughout pregnancy is essential to reducing preterm birth rates.

“Women can’t take for granted how important prenatal care is for the health of their baby,” Robertson said. “We hope that by making it as accessible as possible, women take full advantage of it.”

The mobile health center will visit Asia Baptist Church, 1400 Sere St., Mondays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; United Methodist Church, 3401 Canal St., Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; and Desire Street Ministries, 3600 Desire Parkway, Fridays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information, call 504.903.8412 or 504.903.7090. To make appointments, call 504.235.1706.
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