Susanna McGee

Susanna McGee

WOONSOCKET – Delivering babies is about to become a growth industry at Landmark Medical Center after the hospital snagged two key doctors from Memorial Hospital, including the director of the maternal and child health fellowship in the department of family medicine at Brown University. 

Dr. Susanna Magee joined the staff of Landmark on Monday, the same day Memorial shut down its birthing center in a much-publicized contraction of services. She will practice primary care family medicine as well as obstetrics. 

A colleague of Magee’s from Memorial, Dr. John Morton, an obstetrician-gynecologist, will join the staff at Landmark on Sept. 1 

In addition to joining the staff of Landmark, the two have opened a practice at 255 Cass Ave., next door to the Landmark, which is to be called Full Circle Health. That facility opened its doors this week, although the site is undergoing some renovations. A third medical professional, family practitioner Erin Dana, will join them at the end of August. 

Magee brings the Brown fellowship program with her to Landmark, which means the city hospital is now a “fellowship site” where family physicians will train to perform cesarean sections. Fellows were previously employed at two other health centers in the state – Tri-Town Community Action Program in Johnston and East Bay Community Action in East Providence, but now, for the first time, they’ll also be working at Thundermist Woonsocket as part of the program.

These developments represent a major shot in the arm for the maternity-related health care network in the Greater Woonsocket area, Magee told The Call in an interview this week. 

“It’s technically four clinical sites, with a total of seven doctors and two midwives, and the opportunity to expand from there,” she said. “It’s huge. We’re probably going to see most of the volume that was previously centered at Memorial, somewhere between 400 and 500 deliveries a year.”

Though Landmark is not affiliated with Brown University as a teaching hospital, as Memorial is, Magee remains the director of the fellowship program in family medicine and the program follows her. She said it’s possible a formal affiliation between Landmark and Brown University could eventually come about, however.

“It’s possible it could change in the future, we’ll have to see how this program vets here in the next few years,” she said. “But I have nothing but a positive attitude around it. I think everything is going to go well.”

Magee said she would have brought the fellowship program to Women & Infants “but they didn’t want to absorb it.” Women & Infants is part of the Care New England group of health care facilities that also includes Memorial. CNE said last week that it was steering maternity patients to Women & Infants and Kent Hospital in Warwick after those operations ceased at Memorial.

Magee said she is pleased to be working in the city, however, because she is interested in practicing “high risk obstetrics” as a branch of family medicine. The city’s population and income demographics make Landmark a good setting in which to do so.

Although she’s not an obstetrician-gynecologist, Magee says all family-medicine doctors are trained to deliver babies, but there is a nationwide shortage of physicians who perform C-sections.

To run a successful fellowship program, “You need to have a community that needs the program as well as a willing teacher,” said Magee.

The maternal child health fellowship program is very popular, she said, and “we’ve already received multiple applications for the new program and everyone already knows the program has moved to Landmark Medical Center.”Magee said she was disappointed by CNE’s decision to close the birthing center at Memorial. She said the Pawtucket hospital felt like home to her because it’s the facility where she’d run the fellowship program in family medicine since she became the director in 2006.

“I trained there as a resident, I did my fellowship there,” she said. “It’s been my only medical home for my entire career. It’s really important for me to work in a community hospital.”

The arrival of Magee and Morton promise to pump new life into an area of medicine that, only a few years ago, Landmark was struggling to preserve.

When Landmark was in receivership and its very survival was in question, Thundermist made a decision to funnel its maternity patients away from the local hospital. Landmark responded with a robust campaign to advertise the continued availability of its services.

After nearly five years in receivership, Landmark was purchased by California-based Prime Healthcare Services in a $62 million deal in 2013 – the state’s first takeover of a nonprofit facility by a for-profit hospital chain.

Carolyn Kyle, a spokeswoman for Landmark, said the arrival of Magee and Morton is a boon for the hospital, which maintains a full spectrum of care for maternity patients.She said the hospital employs not just midwives, but birthing coaches known as doulas, operating under the direction of Dr. Timothy Spurell, who will remain the head of the department of obstetrics and gynecology.

“It’s very exciting for the Rhode Island community to be able to have physicians of the caliber of Dr. Morton and Dr. Magee practicing out of Landmark,” Kyle said. “It’s great for the community.”Kyle said Magee was recently featured on the cover of Rhode Island Monthly magazine’s annual “Top Docs” issue. An accompanying article focused on Magee’s embrace of the so-called “gentle C-section,” in which mothers are allowed to cradle their babies as soon as they are delivered.The break from tradition has become a mainstream practice in other countries and elsewhere in the United States, but Magee was the first to bring it to Rhode Island. She says gentle C-sections will remain a core teaching of the maternal child health fellowship as long as she is running the program.

Follow Russ Olivo on Twitter @russolivo

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