In the past, a pregnant woman with any kind of urgent health issue had to come to the regular emergency room for care at those hospitals.
A pregnant woman and her unborn child are at risk for possible airborne illnesses that could put her pregnancy at risk if she is required to share the same rooms and waiting areas as others. In addition, emergency rooms often are not equipped with doctors specializing in birth-related issues.
So sometimes, precious minutes are lost contacting the proper department in the hospital to summon an expert.
To save time and to reduce risk to mother and child, the two hospitals have developed whole separate obstetric emergency departments (OB ED) dedicated specifically to pregnancy – the first such facilities in any New Jersey hospitals.
While the concept of an OB ED is not new nationally, it is new to this part of the country, part of a trend towards providing more specific service for expectant mothers.
The OB EDs, which opened in April, provide specialized and streamlined care for pregnant patients, said Judy Hager, the CarePoint Health executive director of Women and Child Care. CarePoint Health is a medical operating system in both Hoboken University Medical Center and Christ Hospital.
Pregnant women are brought directly to the OB EDs where they are evaluated by a staff that specializes in pregnancy-related issues.
Hager said the OB EDs are staffed with doctors that can directly deal with any issue, even things such as the common cold, and how it relates to the pregnancy.
She said typically, emergency room doctors do not have the specialty required and there can be a delay when seeking information as to how to treat a pregnant woman in a given situation.
“If there is a problem it can be resolved right away,” Hager said.
Various types of problems
Dr. George McQuilkin said the OB EDs also act as a kind of preparation area that gets a pregnant woman ready for delivery so as to reduce time when brought to the delivery suites.
Not all of those who come to the OB EDs end up in delivery, although those who need it do. Often, women face issues complicated by their pregnancy. These issues could be anything from a cold to false labor, or something more serious involving the delivery itself.
Other issues faced specifically by pregnant women could be elevated blood sugar and diabetes, Hager said. Women may have a ruptured membrane or may have an infection that requires specialized treatment.
As with regular emergency room facility, the OB EDs are a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day operation.
“We have an obstetrician and OB nurses here to help the patient and deal with the situation right away,” Hager said.
The new OB EDs can treat as many as 20 women going into labor or with pregnancy-related emergencies each day. Patients come to both hospitals from a variety of sources, many by ambulance. Some are referred from Bayonne Medical Center, which is a sister hospital to Christ and HUMC, but does not have a maternity center of its own.
The concept is to provide easier access, more privacy, and better-targeted care.
One woman recently came into the unit suffering a migraine, which might have required specific medication that would not affect the fetus. Another case involved intense internal pain and required immediate transport to the delivery room.
Dr. McQuilkin has been an obstetrician at HUMC for nearly three decades. He has delivered as many as 10,000 babies in his career, and has recently even delivered babies for women who themselves were delivered by him decades ago.
He recently handled a case in which the fetus was sideways inside the womb and required help to turn it to the proper position.
He said the unit provides services that would not be possible in a regular ER, and also acts as a preparation area for the delivery suites, saving time and resources.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.