2 central Illinois medical groups increasing access to women's health care
A collaborative effort between Bloomington's Advanced Women's Healthcare and OSF HealthCare will increase women's access to specialized health care in central Illinois.
Earlier this week, Peoria-based OSF Healthcare announced an expansion of OB/GYN services at a practice based in Urbana, as well as two new clinics opening in Lincoln and Forsyth, a community outside of Decatur and about an hour south of Bloomington-Normal.
The expanded services are a result of integrating certified nurse midwives from Advanced Women's Healthcare into OSF HealthCare's system. Certified nurse midwives [CNMs] are advanced practice registered nurses who specialize in women's reproductive health care. In addition to maternity and pre- and post-natal care, CNMs can provide general gynecologic care and treatment for pelvic floor disorders.
"Through the addition of a practice of certified nurse midwives and advanced practice providers, we're able to open what we're calling OB-outreach clinics in markets that were going to be experiencing, or were already experiencing, a lack of access to these essential healthcare services," said Jennifer Ulrich, OSF St. Joseph Medical Center interim president.
Ulrich said up to six CNMs will rotate through the clinics and can deliver babies at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington. The clinics themselves will be staffed with a medical office assistant, a registered nurse and a CNM.
While OSF and Advanced Women's Healthcare have worked together for years, Ulrich said the latest collaborative effort is a creative way to address an ongoing, nationwide shortage of OB-GYN doctors.
"When we understood that there were needs that were not being met, Advanced Women's Healthcare came to us ... to be a part of the solution and to stand in the gap and meet these critical health care needs of patients in our communities and extended areas," Ulrich said.
Mother and infant-focused nonprofit March of Dimes estimated in 2022 that about 35% of counties in the country are "maternity care deserts," meaning there are no obstetrical care providers in the county. In Illinois, the nonprofit found 35 of the state's 102 counties are such deserts.
"This happens the most in rural areas where it is challenging to have enough of a patient population to keep a clinic or practice busy and keep them full," Ulrich said.
After the clinics are up and running, she said it's possible that other specialists also will begin practicing at those same clinics.
"In some of these clinics, we will have a multi-specialty presence in the future. We expect that [a] clinic, for a few days a week, will be used of OB-GYN and midwife care, but then other days we might seek to bring other specialties into the market that are also underserved," she said.
The clinic in Lincoln is set to open in April opening. It will be located on 602 Woodlawn Road.
The clinic in Forsyth is expected to open later this month at 845 U.S. Route 51.
The expanded practice in Urbana is housed within the medical offices at the OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center campus.
Clinic operating hours are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.