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By Aimee Gomlak

A recent Associated Press article in The Buffalo News headlined “Wide hospital quality gap on maternity care” makes the case that where women deliver their babies can make a major difference in their own health.

The article points to a study that finds women who deliver at low-performing hospitals suffer twice as many major complications for vaginal births and five times as many for cesarean sections.

The problem, according to the article, is that information on which hospitals provide the best maternity care may be hard to find. In New York State, the Department of Health posts birth registry data on its website that enables consumers to compare maternity hospitals.

Locally, Catholic Health participates in several quality improvement programs, regionally and nationally, to enhance obstetrical care and adopt evidence-based best practices in our birth centers at Sisters of Charity Hospital and Mercy Hospital of Buffalo.

Sisters and Mercy have consistently scored three- and five-star ratings in maternity care (based on a one-, three- and five-star rating system) from HealthGrades, a national authority on health care quality.

Both Mercy and Sisters are also two of only six hospitals in New York State that participate in Managing Obstetrical Risk Efficiently (MORE OB) – a quality improvement program endorsed by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology District II. This program is designed to reduce variability in care, increase safety drills and expand common core knowledge among the birth team. The results at our hospitals are undeniable – reduced C-section and episiotomy rates, reduced lacerations, increased breastfeeding rates and increased vaginal births after a C-section.

Because Sisters and Mercy are also accredited by the Joint Commission, a leading health care accrediting body, we are held to new national standards designed to reduce unnecessary C-sections and episiotomies and limit the use of antenatal steroids, all of which improve the health of mothers and babies.

Regional collaborations are also contributing to the quality of prenatal and maternity care in our community. Efforts like the Healthy Mom Healthy Baby program, United Way’s breastfeeding initiatives, the Buffalo Prenatal/Perinatal Network and other initiatives focused on improving care for mothers and babies are giving area families the support and information they need to have the best birth experiences possible.

Aimee Gomlak is vice president for women’s services at Catholic Health. Drs. Laurence Gugino, Anthony Pivarunas and Mark Weissman, co-chairmen of OB/GYN at Catholic Health, contributed to this article.