WOONSOCKET – Landmark Medical Center is fighting back after a longstanding partner in the local health care scene decided to shift its maternity and obstetrics patients to Women & Infants Hospital in Providence.
The city hospital launched an advertising campaign to promote its in-house maternity and related services Tuesday, a day after Thundermist Health Center initiated the patient shift.
“We are marketing our services,” said Landmark spokesman Bill Fischer. “We’re advertising and continuing to reach out to the community about the quality of services we offer.”
Roughly half, if not more, of the 400 or so deliveries performed at Landmark each year have originated from women who had been receiving outpatient clinical services at Thundermist Health Center. But all that came to an end Monday when Thundermist began moving its maternity patients to Women & Infants and an affiliated group of physicians, the Women & Infants Health Care Alliance.
The move robs Landmark of a sizable chunk of business at a time when the struggling hospital can least afford it. After filing for receivership in Superior Court over three years ago, Landmark’s only strategy for survival is merging with the Stewart Health Care System, a newly formed, for-profit hospital group based in Massachusetts. The merger has the court’s blessing, but is still months away from approval by state regulators.
Despite the financial blow, both Thundermist and Landmark say they remain on good terms and that other patient-care agreements will not be affected by changes in maternity and obstetrics. With a caseload of some 15,000 patients a year from the Woonsocket area, Thundermist is a major source of business for Landmark.
Chuck Jones, the president and CEO of Thundermist, said the sole factor that prompted the shift was a desire to obtain the best maternity and obstetrics care for the Clinton Street clinic’s patients.
“The key factor was where we could get the best possible care for our patients,” said Jones. “It would be difficult for any hospital in Rhode Island to provide the quality of care Women & Infants can provide.”
Under what Jones described an open-ended agreement, the newly formed Women & Infants Health Care Alliance, with two dozen physicians and midwives, will come to Woonsocket to provide prenatal care for Thundermist’s patients, along with three midwives employed by the clinic. Instead of going to Landmark to deliver their babies, the soon-to-be mothers will travel about 20 miles to Women & Infants facilities in Providence.
The patients will be given vouchers for cab fare if they do not have access to other transportation.
Despite the extra travel, said Jones, the overwhelming majority of Thundermist’s current roster of expectant mothers – about 50 in all -- is ecstatic about the prospect of delivering at Women & Infants. He said the women were polled for their reaction, and all but two were strongly in favor of the idea. “A few,” he said, “were in-tears happy.”
In addition to deliveries, all Thundermist patients in need of any sort of OB/GYN care, including surgeries, will be shifted to Women & Infants under the deal.
Overall, said Jones, the deal is not a money-saving proposition for Thundermist. Though he wouldn’t provide figures, the clinic will spend more to obtain the services from Women & Infants.
Jones says Thundermist has been responsible for sending 200 to 250 pregnant women a year to Landmark for deliveries, though Fischer claims the figure is somewhat less.
Fischer said Stewart’s decision to buy Landmark will not be affected by the loss of the maternity business – if there’s any loss at all.
“I’m not ready to concede we’re going to lose any,” said Fischer, adding that the hospital is fully capable of providing high-quality maternity care.
The hospital purchased a series of eight newspaper advertisements for publication in The Call to draw attention to its “Precious Beginnings” maternity program, with a phone number to call for more information about “the exceptional OB/GYN services” it offers.
In a joint statement with Thundermist, Women & Infants said that a report released in July by HealthGrades, an independent agency that tracks the quality of hospital care, gave the Providence hospital a “5-star rating” in maternity care in 2011. The HealthGrades report “found that women who give birth at 5-star rated hospitals experience 32% fewer complications,” the statement says.