Monroe hospital prenatal service to include baby delivery unit

MONROE — More prenatal services are coming and there’s plans to reopen a baby delivery unit closed nearly five years ago at what was then called Valley General Hospital.

Upgrading prenatal, gynecological and baby delivery services were among the goals announced following the hospital’s merger with Kirkland-based EvergreenHealth last year.

The first step is the addition of a physician at EvergreenHealth Women’s Care in Monroe. Dr. Pilar Baquero has joined Dr. Susanne Hopkins, who came to the practice in the fall of 2013. Baquero, who completed her residency at the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine, is fluent in Spanish. This in a community where about 17 percent of the population is of Hispanic or Latino heritage.

There are plans to recruit a third physician as well, said Nancee Hofmeister, Evergreen’s chief nursing officer.

For now, Women’s Care patients will continue to deliver their babies at Evergreen’s Kirkland campus. Last year, 209 moms from Monroe or east Snohomish County gave birth in Kirkland.

The increase in staffing is part of a plan to reopen the birthing unit at the hospital now called EvergreenHealth Monroe.

The cost of upgrading the five-room birthing and delivery unit is estimated at $1 million. That includes new software, technology and equipment, such as a fetal monitoring system and infant security system, Hofmeister said.

It may be 18 months or more before babies will again be delivered at the hospital.

More staff need to be added. This includes an obstetrics specialist as well as neonatal nurse practitioners and an anesthesiologist.

“There’s a whole large team that goes with” opening a baby delivery unit, Hofmeister said.

To make the hospital’s baby delivery unit financially feasible, it will take time to build up a practise with about 250 pregnant women who will deliver their babies in Monroe. The hospital, which had a string of financial losses, must also continue to stay in the black financially. Last year, the hospital ended the year with net income of $571,072, the first time in nine years the hospital didn’t post a loss, said EvergreenHealth spokeswoman Kay Taylor.

Plans to reopen the baby delivery unit have been discussed since the Monroe hospital merged with EvergreenHealth in March 2015, Hofmeister said. A more specific plan began to take shape in May of last year.

Even after the new baby unit opens, some higher risk pregnancies, such as giving birth to twins, or a pending premature birth, will still deliver at Kirkland.

Evergreen decided to move ahead with plans to reopen the Monroe baby unit because “it’s important for the community,” Hofmeister said. “It’s something the community wants.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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