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Staff Transfers to Ease Backlog at Prenatal Clinic

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles County health officials Monday ordered six obstetricians and midwives transferred to the county’s largest public clinic for pregnant women to reduce a backlog of more than 800 patients waiting to receive prenatal care.

Larry Roberts, director of health center operations for the county Department of Health Services, said he reassigned three obstetricians and three nurse midwives from less-crowded health centers to the H. Claude Hudson Comprehensive Health Center at 2829 S. Grand Ave., which serves a section of the city densely populated with recent immigrants.

County officials say about 30 pregnant women a day have been turned away from Hudson in recent weeks because of staff shortages.

Fred Gadson, Hudson’s administrator, said Monday that the situation has been “critical” since November, when half the obstetricians and nurse midwives left the clinic. The center currently has five openings for obstetrician-gynecologists, one midwife vacancy and one obstetrical nurse practitioner opening.

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Salaries that are lower than those in the private sector have hampered efforts to recruit replacements. County officials said Monday that they are working on a more attractive compensation package.

They also said they would seek additional state and federal funding to expand prenatal care services. But Molly Joel Coye, director of the California Department of Health Services, said that the state has “very little” to spare.

In the meantime, Hudson will be using the borrowed obstetricians and midwives to expand services until the backlog of patients is cleared. Gadson estimated that it will take four weeks.

Staff at the health center were telephoning patients on the waiting list Monday to schedule appointments. Special weekend prenatal clinics will be operated in order to serve these patients promptly.

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No new patients will be turned away, Gadson said.

Forty four of the county’s 47 health centers offer prenatal care services. Roberts said the doctors and nurses on loan to Hudson were transferred from health centers with waiting lists of less than two weeks.

County officials stressed Monday that prenatal services are not overtaxed at other county facilities, and that Hudson’s temporary problems should not discourage patients from seeking care.

“It is important that patients recognize that the situation at Hudson has been remedied and that similar delays in providing care do not exist at other county clinics,” said Robert C. Gates, the county’s health services director. “We urge patients in need of these important services (to) continue to seek care at our facilities.”

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Sometime next month, Los Angeles County is expected to receive about $300 million in new federal health-care funds, part of $800 million due California to supplement federal health programs for low-income patients. But the money can be used only for hospital-based services.

Coye suggests that some of that money could be used to expand prenatal outpatient services at the five Los Angeles County hospitals that have such services. This would relieve pressure on the county clinics system, she said.


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