Cutbacks at Kaweah Delta Medical Center affecting new moms

VISALIA, Calif.

Each year, more than 4,000 women give birth at Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia. After one to two days in the hospital they're sent home knowing they could still receive extra care from a nurse if they need it.

For 18 years Kaweah Delta has provided free at-home visits for new moms to check their baby's health. Now, the program is being eliminated.

Director of Maternal/Child Health, Regina Sawyer said, "They would just answer any questions for new moms provide education any questions a basic assessment of the bay and the mom just to make sure that everything was okay."

The $700 thousand Best Beginnings program proved too costly for the hospital, which is battling a $23 million deficit this year.

Linda Pruett said, "It was a very expensive program because we've got registered nurses traveling throughout the county to provide this service."

Those five nurses will now have to re-apply to other departments at the hospital.

Kaweah Delta's Chief Nursing Officer Linda Pruett says the downturn economy hurt the program.

In the 2007-2008 fiscal year, the hospital provided free medical services for 13% of patients. This year, that number is nearly triples at 28%.

But in a county where more than 15% of women giving birth are teen moms, some worry eliminating the program would do more harm than good.

Pruett and Sawyer say the evolution of technology at hospitals won't hurt new moms' and their babies care.

Pruett said, "A lot of medical progress there's so much more technology now than there were 18 or 15 or even 10 years ago."

In the video you'll see photos showing some of the new technology that tests for jaundice and other blood disorders just hours after a newborn is introduced to the world.

Kaweah Delta Medical Center is expanding free lactation services to help in the absence of the Best Beginnings program.

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