Care for Her Grows to Meet Needs of Community

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February 2017

Ukiah, CA - While the number of obstetrical providers in Lake and Mendocino Counties continues to drop, the dedicated team of obstetricians and certified nurse midwives (CNMs) at Care for Her is growing to meet the needs of local communities. They delivered a “bumper crop in 2016,” according to Medical Director Dr. Karen Crabtree, ob/gyn, attending 578 of Ukiah Valley Medical Center’s 801 births last year.

Care for Her is a program of MCHC Health Centers (MCHC), a federally qualified health center dedicated to providing the highest quality health care for people in Lake County and inland Mendocino County. When Dr. Crabtree arrived in 2007, Care for Her delivered about 20 babies per month. Now they deliver approximately 50 babies per month with three full-time obstetricians and seven full-time certified nurse midwives.

“There are a few other midwives who deliver babies,” Dr. Crabtree explained, “But Care for Her delivers the vast majority, more than 70 percent at UVMC.”

Not only is Care for Her impressive in terms of quantity, they are also impressive in terms of quality. Care for Her’s primary cesarean section rate is 13 percent, far below the national average. They have an 80 percent success rate with vaginal births after c-sections (VBACs), at a time when most community hospitals do not offer VBACs at all. And only 34 percent of Care for Her patients choose an epidural to manage pain, less than half the national average.

Dr. Crabtree said, “I don’t think people understand the benefits of working with certified nurse midwives. Certified nurse midwives are medical professionals with a master’s level education focused entirely on women’s health and the birthing process. They go through competitive, highly regarded medical training programs. In fact, only three CNM programs exist in California.”

Care for Her certified nurse midwives help patients feel safe during labor, and because of their 12-hour hospital shifts, certified nurse midwives are always present at UVMC—24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This allows them to support patients throughout their entire labor.

Care for Her doctors and certified nurse midwives work together to care for patients in accordance with the highest standards, those set by American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). All team members are aware of any high-risk pregnancies, and all providers agree upon a care plan ahead of time to ensure continuity and safety for the patient. If needed, the midwives can reach doctors any time, day or night, to address any unexpected complications. Doctors can view a patient’s fetal monitor readings on their computers or even their cell phones.

Dr. Crabtree said she and her Care for Her colleagues enjoy working at UVMC because of UVMC’s excellent nursing staff, facilities and approach to care.

“Everything we do at the hospital is easier because of the excellent OB nurses. We trust them and work really well together. We also appreciate the way UVMC puts patients first. They allow VBACs, which is rare for community hospitals, and they let patients choose how much medical intervention they want, as long as the patients are safe. UVMC has really changed with the times, allowing people to decorate birthing rooms, labor in spa tubs, and have more input into the decisions around their care,” she said.  

Once babies are born, the Care for Her team introduces patients to the MCHC pediatric team, which recently expanded by adding two new pediatricians and two new nurse practitioners. MCHC Health Centers provides care for patients of all ages so families can receive care for everyone at the same health center, whether it is Hillside in Ukiah, Lakeview in Lakeport or Little Lake in Willits.

Dr. Crabtree said, “Because the need continues to grow, we continue to recruit new providers. We’re currently looking for an additional ob/gyn for obstetrics and for gynecological care. In addition to delivering babies, we provide gynecological surgery, much of it minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery.”

Care for Her ob/gyns are conservative when it comes to surgery, preferring less invasive options when possible, but when surgery is called for, Dr. Crabtree and her colleagues, Dr. Adwoa Christy and Dr. Kristin Laporte, perform surgical procedures for everything from infertility to fibroids. Care for Her’s part-time ob/gyn, Dr. Larry Hartley, and the organization’s two women’s health nurse practitioners also provide gynecological care, including well-woman exams, family planning, confidential testing for sexually transmitted disease, and more. For details, visit www.careforher.org or call 707-468-1010 and ask for Care for Her.

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