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KU Opening New OB-GYN Clinic In WyCo To Address Growing Need

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The University of Kansas Hospital
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KU Hospital's new OB-GYN clinic will be housed in this building at 21 N. 12th St. in Kansas City, Kansas.

The University of Kansas Hospital is opening an obstetrics and gynecology clinic in the center of Kansas City, Kansas, to address a shortage of providers there. 

The clinic, slated to open Tuesday at 21 N. 12th St., will be the second such clinic operated by KU Hospital in Wyandotte County and its sixth in the metro area.

Over the last decade or so, KU’s OB-GYN clinics  largely have focused on improving access to women’s subspecialty services. The new clinic, however, will seek to meet the needs of women who lack access to basic obstetrical care.

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Credit The University of Kansas Hospital
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Dr. Carl P. Weiner, chairman of the OB-GYN department at KU Hospital, says the new clinic has the potential to serve thousands of women the area.

Dr. Carl Weiner, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at KU Hospital, says KU was surprised to learn that there were few obstetric providers in the surrounding area, which accounts for more than 900 deliveries annually.

Women were leaving the area to find health care, he says, “and that shouldn’t happen.”

“The news that we were getting from patients and providers seemed to be that there was an access issue, and even though we weren't a long way away, it was far enough to make it difficult if you didn't have access to a car daily,” he says.

Also factoring into the decision to open the clinic, Weiner says, was Wyandotte County’s troubling infant mortality rate.

The county is one of just three in Kansas where infant deaths reached triple digits combined between 2009 and 2013, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Whether the new clinic can help put a dent in those grim figures remains an open question.

“We have to deal with a whole range of societal issues that partly underlie increased rates of complications both with pregnancies and health in the non-pregnant woman,” Weiner says.

“We also have to deal with being sure that patients have access to care, and that is a challenge presently and certainly it may be a challenge in the future. But one thing I am confident of, if we don't try, if we're not there to provide those services, we have no chance.”

The new clinic will be staffed by Dr. Kari Farris, a well-known practitioner in the community, and Marcia Houpe, a certified nurse midwife who is also a trainer in KU Hospital’s PROMPT program, which instructs hospitals on how to deal with obstetrical emergencies. Bilingual nurses will round out the staff.

Several developments have conspired to reduce obstetrical services in the area. St. Joseph Medical Center in south Kansas City closed its birthing center last month. And Weiner points to a decline in deliveries at Providence Medical Center, which is located about 12 miles west of the clinic.

KU Hospital also provides OB-GYN services at the hospital itself; four other clinics it operates in Kansas – two in Overland Park, one in Westwood and one in Topeka; and two clinics it operates in Missouri – one in Gladstone and the other in St. Joseph.

Weiner says the new clinic could end up serving thousands of women who currently lack access to general obstetrics and gynecology care. He says KU isn’t interested in duplicating services or competing with existing practices, “but we but we do want to make sure women are served.”

“And where we discover these types of gaps in services,” he says, “we will try to fill them, all for the hope of improving health care for the women in the region.”

Dan Margolies, editor of the Heartland Health Monitor team, is based at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

As a reporter covering breaking news and legal affairs, I want to demystify often-complex legal issues in order to expose the visible and invisible ways they affect people’s lives. I cover issues of justice and equity, and seek to ensure that significant and often under-covered developments get the attention they deserve so that KCUR listeners and readers are equipped with the knowledge they need to act as better informed citizens. Email me at dan@kcur.org.
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