Monday, August 7, 2017 12:00 AM

Maternity services recognized for safety, quality

Community Regional Medical Center, the high-risk pregnancy and birthing center for a five-county region, earned all three of Healthgrades® distinctions in maternity care this year.

The national ratings organization recognized the downtown Fresno hospital with the 2017 Healthgrades Gynecologic Surgery Excellence Award™, the 2017 Healthgrades Labor and Delivery Excellence Award™ and the 2017 Healthgrades Obstetrics and Gynecology Excellence Award™ for demonstrating superior outcomes in women’s healthcare services.
“We’re thrilled to have this recognition, especially considering we’re the high-risk birthing center for the region,” said Kudzi Muchaka, vice president of Women’s & Newborn Health at Community Medical Centers. “I think our 24/7 physician coverage is key. Big kudos also go to our dedicated and expert nurses and staff. I’m proud of all they’ve accomplished.”
Dr. Jeffrey Thomas did his obstetric training at Community Regional through UCSF Fresno and has been delivering babies there for nearly two decades. He said staff and doctors are proud of “being a true safety net hospital, by providing comprehensive, high-risk obstetrical care that begins with superb pre-natal diagnosis, antepartum surveillance and state-of the art labor and delivery with NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) integration. We provide these services regardless of socio-economic status. The patient with no insurance or pre-natal care gets the same treatment as the wife of a CEO.”
At the forefront of best practices for healthier deliveries
Dr. Thomas, who chairs the quality patient safety committee at the hospital, said Community Regional “has been a front-runner in quality improvement” adopting best practices for swift recognition and team response to hemorrhaging and to preeclampsia, or dangerously high blood pressure, in maternity patients.
“This team rocks!” echoed the hospital’s Director of Women & Newborn Health Sarah Putman, MSN, MHA, RNC. “Our patients’ rates of obesity, diabetes and maternal hypertension are much higher than the rest of California, but our rate of severe maternal morbidity is lower than the California average. We have an amazing highly trained nursing staff who support our patients before, during and following their birth experience with one goal in mind: a healthy mother and baby. Our Women & Newborn Health staff at Community Regional, together with excellent physicians and mid-wives, make being the leaders in obstetrical care in the region possible.”

Where other hospitals send their most difficult cases

Because of the expertise of staff and the fact that Community Regional also has a Level 3 NICU, it’s the hospital where other hospitals transfer complicated cases and those with risky multiple births. The hospital made international news by delivering five sets of triplets in less than seven weeks in the summer of 2015. For the past decade it has ranked first or second in California for delivering the most babies weighing under 3 lbs. 8 oz. 
“We take pride in being the hospital that other hospitals can rely on us to take care of their really challenging cases,” said Dr. Thomas.
When Healthgrades announced the 2017 Women’s Care Awards at the end of July it also published a related report that suggests improvements in maternal care and outlines an analysis that shows a decline in the number of cesarean section (C-section) births from 2011 to 2015 nationwide.
Comparisons empower women to make better birthing choices
“Women must be their own maternal care advocates,” said Dr. Brad Bowman, chief medical officer of Healthgrades. “Delivering a baby is one of the most personal and important health experiences for a family, and women should feel empowered to know the facts before they choose a hospital for their labor and delivery. By researching hospital quality on Healthgrades, patients can review the clinical history of a facility’s most common procedures and specialties.”
To help consumers evaluate and compare hospital performance, Healthgrades analyzed patient outcome data for all patients made available by 17 states from 2013 through 2015. This data was used to identify the highest performing hospitals in women’s health, revealing variation in quality between hospitals distinguished as Healthgrades award recipients and hospitals that were not.
Award winning hospitals have significantly better outcomes
Healthgrades evaluated 1,383 eligible hospitals across 17 states and awarded 140 hospitals in the top 10% the Labor and Delivery Excellence Award. An analysis found a 54% lower risk of experiencing complications if women gave birth in one of these top hospitals.
Healthgrades Obstetrics and Gynecology Excellence Award highlights hospitals that have exceptional clinical outcomes while caring for women in childbirth, as well as during and after gynecologic surgeries and procedures. Out of 833 eligible hospitals across 17 states, only 84 earned the Healthgrades recognition and the analysis found women had a 42% lower risk of complications in these top hospitals.
The Gynecologic Surgery Excellence Award™ recognizes the top 10% of hospitals evaluated that provided outstanding performance in gynecologic surgery, including hysterectomy and surgery related to the female reproductive system. Healthgrades evaluated 909 eligible hospitals across 17 states and recognized 92 hospitals.  Healthgrades found that patients treated in hospitals receiving this award had a 48% lower risk of complications.
UCSF Fresno and teamwork contribute to great care
Dr. Carlos Sueldo, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at UCSF Fresno, oversees 16 OB/Gyn residents that train annually at Community Regional. He credits the Healthgrades honors to the teamwork between Community Regional’s nurses, UCSF faculty and residents and all the doctors on-call that cover labor and delivery 24/7. “Our nursing staffs are very devoted to women’s health. Our residents spend a lot of time in the prenatal diagnostic center and then see those high risk obstetric patients in the hospital,” Dr. Sueldo said. “Our residents learn quickly how to handle these really complicated OB patients.”
Dr. Sueldo also takes pride in the hospital’s safety net role. “As an example, in private hospitals, where they take care of healthy pregnant women, with good prenatal care and good nutrition, good outcomes are to be expected,” said Dr. Sueldo. “But we have patients referred to our hospital, where all those factors are challenging; so these awards and recognition have a lot more meaning.”
Erin Kennedy reported this story. Reach her at