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New program will benefit low-income pregnant women

February 04, 2002

New program will benefit low-income pregnant women



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer


MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Low-income pregnant women in southern Franklin County and Fulton County can have a personal nurse follow them through their pregnancies and beyond, now that a government-funded program has come to the Mercersburg area.

Healthy Beginnings Plus was, until December, run by Chambersburg Hospital in the Chambersburg Maternity Clinic. The hospital shut it down as a result of high malpractice insurance rates which drove out the two family physicians who ran it, said Sheran White, spokeswoman for Summit Health.

Family practitioners who do obstetrics pay malpractice premiums that run $25,000 a year higher than those for other medical practices, White said.

Summit Health owns Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals and the newly opened Summit Health Center on Norland Avenue in Chambersburg, Pa.

The Healthy Beginnings Plus program was taken over Jan. 1 by Women's Health Professionals of Chambersburg. Its main office is in the Summit Health Center on Norland Avenue. It has satellite offices in Shippensburg, Pa., and at the Mercersburg Health Center in Mercersburg.

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Part of the Mercersburg center, which also is owned by Summit Health, is leased to Women's Health Professionals.

Dr. Sohael M. Raschid, a partner in Women's Health Professionals, said he took on the Healthy Beginnings Plus program so it would be continued. He hired Lisa Ritz, a registered nurse, to coordinate the program.

Raschid said he expects to treat about 75 patients a month. Since Raschid took over in January, nearly 50 women have signed up.

The Mercersburg center will treat patients from southern Franklin County and Fulton County, Ritz said. Those who live near Chambersburg and in northern Franklin County will enroll there and at the Shippensburg center.

The Keystone Health Center in Chambersburg also runs a Healthy Beginnings Plus program. Physicians there are paid with federal funds and are not subject to malpractice suits, White said.

Ritz said she has started to make home visits.

In addition to pre- and post-natal care, Ritz refers patients to government and private programs like Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the federal nutrition program, to dietitians, childbirth classes, parenting classes, counseling, education, housing help, transportation and the Stork's Store.

The Stork's Store gives pregnant women the incentive to get the care they need, and it makes practical items like maternity and infant clothes, diapers, blankets, bottles and infant furniture available at little or no cost.

Ritz said most of her patients are single. About 20 percent are in their teens, she said.

She said she has helped deliver thousands of babies in her 14-year career in obstetrics.

"The one thing patients in Healthy Beginnings Plus like is the personal contact with the same person throughout their pregnancy, a person who follows them through it and beyond," Ritz said.

Healthy Beginnings is available to women who have a Pennsylvania Access Card, have no insurance or fall under the program's income guidelines.

More information is available by calling 1-717-217-6990.

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