South Sunflower County Hospital was delivering as many as 300 babies a year about a decade ago.
Today, that number has dropped to about 200 a year, with an average of 12 babies born at the Indianola-based hospital each month, according to Interim Chief Clinical Officer Chuck Reynolds.
Reynolds returned to his second stint at South Sunflower in 2018, assuming the new role, and he and the hospital have made strides to bring those numbers back to where they once were.
“When I was here 10 years ago, we delivered sometimes close to 300 a year,” Reynolds said. “We’re not doing that now. They’ve gone elsewhere, so we’re making an effort to upgrade our delivery rooms, our monitoring systems and our overall care.”
Reynolds said when he arrived back at South Sunflower last August, he saw immediately that the birthing room in the hospital did not meet code in terms of square footage.
“We went back and selected two rooms, where we took out the center wall,” he said. “Now our birthing room meets code.”
The revamped delivery room also features a new bedside monitoring system that watches the fetal heart rate.
That is one component of a bigger monitoring system project.
“When we obtained this financial support, we developed a wish list,” Reynolds said. “We wanted to do a centralized monitoring system, which is comparable to UMMC and bigger hospitals, where the fetal heart tones are seen on a monitor just like an EKG monitor in the ICU.”
Reynolds said with this addition, doctors and nurses can monitor fetal heart rates at a central point, and doctors can keep tabs on their patients from afar.
“We all feel very confident that we’re on level with anybody in our area, and certainly with anybody our size,” Reynolds said. Being a rural hospital and still delivering babies is a unique situation.”
Reynolds said that there are just a handful of rural hospitals in the state that still deliver babies. If South Sunflower’s services were not available, he said it would be a 30-mile minimum commute to receive them.
Currently, all of the doctors at South Sunflower see OB patients, Reynolds said, and all are qualified to deliver babies.
Last year, SSCH announced that it had obtained the coveted Baby Friendly designation. The hospital obtained this international recognition after a rigorous process, but it shows that the hospital had already taken major steps to improve its prenatal and postnatal care, Reynolds said.
He said that the hospital plans to start a pregnancy group and start having meetings where they will emphasize things like vitamins and prenatal care.
“It’s really an all-out blitz to get back to the status we once were at,” Reynolds said.
More Services Coming
South Sunflower is set to open a new wound care clinic during the first week of June, Reynolds said.
He said that a study of the area showed that there was great demand, based on high incidents of vascular disease, diabetes, blood pressure problems, all of which can lead to further complications like diabetic ulcers and poor wound healing.
“It’s much-needed,” he said. “We send a lot of people from the extended care facilities in our area are sent out for that care. We want them to come here and be local.”
This will be followed by the opening of the hospital’s first Pulmonary Rehab Unit.
Reynolds said that the hospital was recently contacted by a physician’s nurse in Memphis, who was discharging a patient back to Sunflower County, and she was wondering if SSCH had a Pulmonary Rehab Unit.
She said there was not one between Memphis and Jackson.
Reynolds said that is about to change.
“We are really looking forward to that,” Reynolds said. “We have in-house certification and personnel on board. It’s going to be a quick turnaround to develop that Pulmonary Rehab Center.”
Reynolds said the hospital is in the early stages of talking about constructing a potential wellness/fitness center near the main campus.
“The more we offer to the people in town, they develop a higher comfort level, and they don’t’ have to go out of town to get good care,” he said.