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ORMC now offering 24/7 OB-GYN coverage - Odessa American: Local News

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ORMC now offering 24/7 OB-GYN coverage

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Posted: Monday, April 27, 2020 3:30 am

Seven obstetrician-gynecologists have joined forces to provide 24-hour coverage for patients at Odessa Regional Medical Center.

Dr. James Van Riper said the service started April 1 and he calls them laborists. Others might call them hospitalists.

The program ensures every pregnant patient presenting to labor and delivery is seen by an obstetrician. Currently, Van Riper said, they are seeing patients that are 20 weeks along all the way past the patient’s due date. Patients before 20 weeks are seen in the regular emergency room and we are available for consults.

He noted that the laborist doesn’t replace the place of the patient’s own physician. The laborist is there to help the patient, and the doctor.

“We can assist doctors during difficult deliveries and or cesarean deliveries,” Van Riper said.

With the advent of the coronavirus, he said the hospital thought about putting off the program.

“We really thought about delaying it until this blew over, but the main concern was just some of the local OB-GYNs got sick or something with the coronavirus. It’s kind of like a backup. … Someone’s always there for the patients, but we thought it would be a good thing to start so if some of us did need to be quarantined or something, someone’s always going to be there for our patients. Even patients who don’t have a physician, someone’s there 24 hours a day in labor and delivery to take care of them so it really helps us out a lot better in private practice,” Van Riper said.

All the OB-GYNs are board certified. They are available for pregnant women, but also any type of gynecological emergency where someone has to be hospitalized, he said.

C-sections and inductions are still performed. At the time of this interview, ORMC had stopped elective surgeries, but Van Riper said it’s business as usual for labor and delivery.

“People have to deliver. There are still C-sections that occur, if needed, and so labor and delivery really hasn’t changed,” he said.

Some of the physicians work seven, 24-hour shifts and others work a bit less.

“Right now there are seven of us. Some of us are in private practice and do this, like myself, and then some are doing this … full time. The company also has what they call like a travelers, so if some of us were on vacation or got sick or something, there’s a backup kind of like a traveler that can come in and do a few shifts that’s maybe not from the area,” Van Riper said.

The company is OB Hospitalist Group, he said.

“They started back in 2006 and they’re the largest company that’s dedicated just to OB-GYN providers just for hospitals. Other companies might do emergency room, or anesthesia services, or other things. This company is dedicated just to OB-GYN providers …,” Van Riper said.

A patient’s regular doctor will still perform the delivery, but for emergencies one of the OHG could care for them and their doctor would be notified about what’s going on.

Van Riper said the OB emergency department has been in the works for a year or year and a half.

“… I personally I had a friend in Lubbock and they were one doctor short, and so I signed up to come up there as kind of like a back up. … I really enjoyed doing that. I did it a few times a month and so when we were talking about this here, there were some choices of who to use and do we do this or not,” Van Riper said.

He thought about the benefit of the patient experience in Lubbock where complications could be reduced because the regular OB-GYNs could be at home when someone’s in labor.

“They’re not up there 24 hours. If there was an emergency there’s someone readily available to help with that. It also helps the private practicing physician because we can tell them and easily relay information to them about what’s going on with their patient, if needed,” Van Riper said.

“And plus, sometimes when we’re in private practice we have patients in the office. We have patients in labor and delivery and we kind of get pulled every which way. We have a family at home and so forth and it’s just so nice to have” someone that can help out.

He added that he feels it makes for a better patient experience and safety.

“We stay up there in the hospital. We have a call room near labor and delivery on the same floor and then we also have part of where labor and delivery’s at we have a dedicated area that kind of see the patients arriving for their initial evaluation, like did their water break or maybe they have some bleeding, or they have some other concern. Then they’re all seen by the laborist or their private doctor can immediately come in and see them and then we determine are they in labor or not. If they’re in labor, they’re admitted to their regular doctor in labor and delivery so we’re just kind of there in 24 hours a day in labor and delivery,” Van Riper said.

Currently at ORMC, Van Riper said one support person can come in for the delivery and the post partum. He added that there are a lot of factors that go into that such as how many masks and gowns are available.

“That person will be screened, as every person that enters the hospital is currently, for symptoms. One person is allowed in there. I know some of the hospitals maybe like in New York City have changed that and that’s a big concern, but currently no one wants that to happen here. It’s so important to have at least one support person with you,” he said.

There are no extra precautions after the baby is born if the patient doesn’t have any signs or symptoms of COVID-19. The recommendation is for a new mother to limit contact at home and limiting contact with visitors.

“We should all practice social distancing, especially with the newborn baby,” Van Riper said.

He said they have not gotten much feedback on the OB-GYN service so far, but in places like Lubbock patients have said it’s a better experience for them. If a patient has a concern and it’s 2 a.m., they can see an OB-GYN and get some reassurance that everything’s OK.

“Or if there’s a real emergency, … we can handle that emergency until their physician gets there and everyone I’ve come across in this so far is very thankful and appreciative of the service,” Van Riper said.

Van Riper has been in practice since 2001 and in Odessa since 2007. He said he has been a laborist at Covenant Children’s Hospital in Lubbock for about two years.

He’s been pulling fewer shifts because of the service starting at ORMC.

“We can all pick how many shifts we want to do as long as the schedule is covered. I’ve covered enough so I can still have my practice, but still do this, too,” Van Riper said.

“It’s been a real joy to me to do this because you can kind of see that immediate benefit like I really accomplished something better for them and good for the patient … So it gives us, as a physician, that satisfaction of doing something good for the patient. It kind of rewards us in a way,” he added.

Dr. Mary Grace Bridges, who has been in practice for a little more than three years, joined the group in March. The benefit of having laborists is patients can be evaluated by an obstetrician whenever they come in and they can provide extra help to the private OBs in the area.

“I think it’s a great resource, not only for the hospital but for the community …,” Bridges said.

“My training is very unique to where I am an OB-GYN, but I also did a fellowship in breast surgery, so I know that with the OB ED that doesn’t really play a role in that, but I actually specialize in breast surgery as well,” Bridges said.

She said the group of OB-GYNs has worked well together. She was with Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo before arriving in Odessa.

“I think they’re all outstanding physicians and I’m really excited and looking forward to having that group collaborative,” Bridges said.

She noted that this is interesting, scary and challenging time for physicians and healthcare providers. Bridges said they take extra precautions now with the ongoing research about labor and pregnancy and coronavirus. Providers spend more time with a patient who is giving birth so there is an increased risk of exposure, so personal protective equipment has been increased.

ORMC President Stacey Brown said the hospital is excited to offer the Obstetrical Emergency Department in the Permian Basin.

“… This is a significant investment that will result in better access and higher quality of care for our community. This gives our obstetric patients the ability to see an OB/GYN doctor around the clock, in an ER setting. It not only benefits our patients, but also provides respite to our private OB/GYN physicians who work so diligently to provide around the clock, quality care for their patients,” Brown said in a statement.

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