BRAWLEY — Nurse midwives specializing in helping women with their pregnancies and births from the first few weeks to delivery are now on staff at Pioneers Memorial Hospital at the Pioneers Health Center — the first of their kind in a medical institution here in Imperial Valley.
For 20 years, Pioneers Memorial Hospital ran a Women’s Health Clinic in El Centro that provided prenatal care, but due to financial issues, the facility had to close down eight years ago, leaving a medical gap in a community. That changed in September when PMH opened up the new Women’s Health Center at the Pioneers Health Center.
This week was the facility’s grand opening and ribbon cutting. The clinic has been open since September, and according to the clinic’s medical Director Dr. Natalie Babkina, there has been a steady stream of at least 30 patients to the clinic every a week.
“There is a great need for women’s care improvement in the community and after being here for several years, I’ve met women who have had no care, inadequate care, very limited care, no prenatal care at all, and a lot of these women had multiple medical issues that needed to be addressed as outpatients,” said Babkina. “To me, it is very satisfying as a physician to know we now have a mechanism in place to help everyone.”
What makes the clinic different are the nurse midwives, nurses who specialize in women’s health as well as having the skills to a help a woman bring her baby into the world. Nurse midwives join the journey with an expectant mother from the first weeks all the way to the end when the baby is born — and even after. They also offer other services in regards to women’s health.
Currently, there are two nurse midwives at the clinic with a third coming this week and a potential for a fourth in the future. Pioneers is the first with a department that offers nurse midwives to the public, a service that is normally only seen in the bigger cities. Women are also able to continue to go to the health center after the birth for postpartum care, something that not many women are able to do.
“We want to give the women in the Valley an option, we want to give them choice,” said Kari Fernandez, the clinic director, “and prior to us opening their options were limited, especially for the underserved and underprivileged.”
“You don’t have midwives in the Valley, usually people have to travel to San Diego for one,” said Trina Rubio, one of the center’s front staff.
The two midwives are Areceli Nelson and Mercy Valenzuela. Nelson has the extra distinction of being certified, meaning she is able to deliver the babies when they are born.
“I just felt there was a need for an offering of a different service in the Valley,” said Nelson. “It was something I’d always wanted to do.”
“We make women part of their care. We value what they say and if they agree with the plan of care,” said Valenzuela. “We make them involved in their own pivotal role in their healthcare.”
The Women’s Health Clinic also provides services for adult and geriatric care for women who are seeking obstetrical/family planning care or have gynecological healthcare needs. These services include: gynecological care, pre-conception counseling, pre-natal and post-partum care, family planning, STD screening, educational counseling, vaccinations, and referrals.
There are eight examination rooms, two education rooms, two midwives, and four board- certified OBGYN supervising physicians.
The center takes almost all forms of insurance and staff said they will also work with the patients in order to give them the care they need.
To sum up the mission of the center, Dr. Babkina made a promise to the public Thursday night, “We are here to do our best. We are here for you.”