SIKESTON -- While Stephen Clayton Stark's arrival Jan. 1, 2006, made him first baby of the New Year at Missouri Delta Medical Center, he followed a record setting year in the local hospital's delivery room.
For the first time in at least 10 years Missouri Delta Medical Center set a monthly delivery record of 76 babies and also delivered 608 babies in 2005. Although the number of babies delivered is 100 less than the 700-plus in 1985, hospital officials noted many changes have taken place in the practice since that time.
For example, when Dr. Anthony Poole began delivering babies at MDMC in 1983, there were about eight or 10 doctors delivering babies. Today there's a total of three -- Poole, David W. Stroud and Jennifer Nickell.
"We're delivering more (babies) than most OBs deliver, and there's just three of us," said Poole, adding he averages about seven baby deliveries a week. In the mid-1980s, only Poole and another doctor were specialized in obstetrics/gynocology at the time; the others were general or family practice doctors.
"In many places, it (family practice doctors delivering babies) became a thing of the past," Poole said. "So many of the general practice doctors were unable to afford the increase in malpractice insurance to practice OB. It was a real problem in some areas."
Poole said MDMC was fortunate enough to have six or eight family practice doctors who in the early 1980s were willing to practice obstetrics. "And a couple were as good as obstetricians as you could find -- but they were forced out because of malpractice issues," Poole said.
The biggest change over the years is the soaring malpractice-insurance premiums, malpractice insurance for the specialized doctors, Poole pointed out.
"Premiums were up high in the 1980s. They came down in the 1990s and now are back to increasing," Poole said.
Poole said he thinks the high premiums also caused a change in the number of medical students going into OB-GYN. The numbers have decreased radically over the years, he said.
"The cost of practicing has gone up and at the same time, revenue-generated third party reimbursement gone down," Poole said.
Technology has definitely improved the practice over the years, Poole said. "We're better at predicting when patients might go under pre-term labor or premature rupture of membranes or prenatal diagnosis with an ultrasound than in the 1980s," Poole said.
Missouri Delta began delivering babies when the hospital opened in 1948. In the 1990s and 2000s MDMC has averaged around 550 deliveries; last year 593 babies were delivered at the Sikeston hospital.
Leslie Evetts, maternal child nurse manager at MDMC, noted 2005 was the first time over 600 babies were delivered in a year since the current three OB-
GYNs began practicing together. She said the 76-baby record was set in December.
"Our care has been upgraded to more professional licensing than ever before," Evetts said.
Missouri Delta Medical Center was one of the first medical centers in the area to offer labor, delivery and recovery suites in the O'Bannon Family Care Center, Evetts said.
Security has also been upgraded to prevent infant abductions. "Safety and education wasn't promoted as much 20 years ago as it is today either," Evetts said.
And now there's more structured education to teach the different aspects of childbirth, Evetts noted. A registered nurse teaches beginner and refresher childbirth, sibling and breastfeeding classes. A breastfeeding lactation consultant is available for support.
Missouri Delta Medical Center provides skilled Level I and Level II nursery newborn care in the O'Bannon Family Care Center. The Level II nursery is available for those infants requiring more than routine newborn care.
MDMC patients aren't just from Sikeston. They come from all over -- any the surrounding counties of New Madrid, Mississippi, Scott and Evetts said.
"We're real good for this area," Evetts said about the Sikeston hospital. "And we're a good place to go."