CIMC encourages expectant moms to expect on mainland

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Catalina Island Medical Center staff and providers strongly encourage local pregnant women to spend their final four weeks of pregnancy on the mainland.

“All pregnant women within a month of delivery should remain close to their delivery hospital,” the Medical Center’s Dr. Tracey Norton said.

“From the Island, a woman cannot be certain she can get to her hospital within two hours, so Catalina is too far away,” Norton said.

Catalina Island Medical Center staff and providers strongly encourage local pregnant women to spend their final four weeks of pregnancy on the mainland.

“All pregnant women within a month of delivery should remain close to their delivery hospital,” the Medical Center’s Dr. Tracey Norton said.

“From the Island, a woman cannot be certain she can get to her hospital within two hours, so Catalina is too far away,” Norton said.

Norton acknowledged that most women would deliver their babies without a problem.

“Pregnancy is not an illness. Pregnant women are mostly young and healthy and their babies are healthy too,” Norton said. “It’s just that we who care for women and their unborn children can never relax and just rely on the high probability that all will go well. We need to consider the 5 percent possibility that something could go wrong.”

The doctor said even though there would most likely not be a problem with most deliveries, when things go wrong in child birth, they go very wrong, very fast, making the need for an extensive labor and delivery department essential.

“When something does go wrong in late pregnancy, minutes can make the difference between a happy and a devastating outcome,” she said.

Relying on a medevac helicopter is a risky—and expensive—proposition. Even if they will accept a woman in active labor, weather can be a delaying factor and in the best of circumstances it can be up to two hours before a patient is transported.

There has not been a planned delivery on the Island for several decades.

“We don’t deliver here anymore for a number of reasons,” Norton said. “People rightfully expect to have the best resources available for any complications of pregnancy or delivery; however, the Medical Center is a rural hospital isolated from immediate access to an obstetrician, an operating room or a neonatal intensive care unit.”

Catalina Island’s birth rate mirrors that of the rest of Los Angeles County: about 15 births per 1,000 people.

Most of those babies will be born to women who get the bulk of their prenatal care from one of Catalina Island Medical Center’s four providers. Dr. Norton, along with Dr. Laura Ulibarri, Dr. Monte Mellon and Nurse Practitioner Karla Parsons all regularly see pregnant patients throughout the course of their prenatal care. Regular monitoring of the pregnancy’s progression through prenatal care allows physicians to identify potential problems and address any issues the mother may be having.

“In the world of maternity care we want to limit surprises to the good kind, like a healthy mom and baby,” Norton said. “We need good prenatal information, collected over the entire pregnancy, to have the best chance of success.” The patients who choose to deliver at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center are also seen early in their care at one of two Long Beach obstetrical groups.

After 36 weeks, the patients are seen weekly on the mainland.

The Medical Center provides prenatal care records to the physician who will deliver the baby.

“If a pregnant woman does not have family or friends they can stay with near their delivery hospital, there may be other resources that we can help with,” said Dawn Sampson, the Medical Center’s director of Social Services.

“We can help make sure there is an affordable option,”  she said.

Norton encouraged the community to come together to support families and encourage them to make the safe decision to await their delivery on the mainland.

“We are family physicians here. We aspire to healthy families in our community,” Norton said.

“Rigorous prenatal care sets the stage for a successful labor and delivery. Delivery by a provider you know in the hospital expecting you further assures success,” Norton said.

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