CA Hospitalists Often First Line of Defense Against Congenital Syphilis Outbreak

By Kristine Hartvigsen on June 27th, 2016

Between 2012 and 2014, cases of congenital syphilis tripled in California, with many clustered around the Central Valley and Kern County area. The staff at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital found that most women who gave birth to babies with congenital syphilis had no personal physician and received very little or no prenatal care before presenting to their hospital. Their understaffed Labor and Delivery triage unit often was the first and only caregiver these women had seen.

As a first line of defense against the disease, Bakersfield Memorial worked with Ob Hospitalist Group to establish full 24/7 Labor and Delivery triage coverage to ensure that a Board Certified OB/GYN physician is on hand around the clock to evaluate every at-risk pregnant woman and test her for syphilis (as required by California law upon first prenatal visit). If positive for syphilis, the OB hospitalist can prescribe antibiotics for the woman and prevent the disease from developing in her newborn. In an abundance of caution, OBHG’s hospitalists also test high-risk women for syphilis in the third trimester and at delivery.

“Previously we had lackluster coverage in OB for unassigned patients and drop-ins. … We had a lot of nurse deliveries,” said Dr. Rodney Root, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at BMH. That is no longer the case.

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