Howard University Hospital has partnered with Unity Health Care to expand its obstetrics services, part of an effort to reach underserved patients in the city.
The hospital will reopen a previously closed wing to bring 11 new inpatient rooms dedicated to prenatal and after-birth care, in addition to an operating room and delivery room. The hospital has also hired 35 new nurses and extended admitting privileges to Unity’s obstetrics and gynecology physicians and midwives.
The partnership will bring more physicians, labor and delivery rooms and neonatal beds to the hospital and will increase the hospital’s annual capacity to 2,000 from about 900.
Officials said the changes are to expand access to the women’s care and specialty health care services to underserved communities, especially women in Ward 7 and 8.
African-American woman in the city have had disproportionately negative perinatal outcomes. According to the most recent March of Dimes information, Black woman in the District have the highest rates of receiving late or no prenatal care and the lowest rates of receiving early prenatal care.
Black woman also had the highest rates of inadequate prenatal care compared to other maternal race and ethnicity categories. The rate of inadequate prenatal care among births Black women was three times higher than the rate among white women with 34 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively.
“[The hospital’s] specialized care combined with Unity’s primary care expertise and over 25 health care sites are a great match to meet a variety of needs of communities across the District, especially east of the Anacostia where the services are needed most,” said Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick.
The announcement follows the D.C. Department of Health’s 90-day closure of the obstetrics ward at United Medical Center in August, for which the hospital’s board has requested a 90-day extension, and the self-imposed closure of Providence Health System’s obstetrics services.
The partnership will leverage the hospital’s 175 specialty care providers and Unity’s 25 primary care capabilities through its 25 clinics and will align both organizations’ networks of women’s health and family medicine providers to offer a full spectrum of care, from preventative to comprehensive medical service.
“It is through collaborations like the one we not have with Howard that we are able to fulfill to fulfill our mission at Unity of promoting healthier communities regardless of an individual’s ability to pay,” said Unity President and CEO Vincent A. Keane. “There is no happier time within a family than the birth of a child. Through this partnership we are able to ensure that all of our District families have access to a coordinated, seamless delivery experience so they can focus on what’s important — their new baby.”
Howard University Hospital will establish a regular presence of high-risk pregnancy specialists at Unity’s existing clinics in Southeast. Unity clinics will also become a training site for future healthcare providers in medicine, nursing, pharmacy and dentistry to address the need for minority providers.
Before the collaboration, Unity sent medical residents to train at Providence Hospital, but they will now shift their obstetrics training to Howard. The two entities will also share electronic medical records.
“This partnership is truly a win-win,” said Hugh E. Mighty, dean of Howard University College of Medicine. “The community gets enhanced health care immediately, and we have the opportunity to develop more medical care professionals in the District.”