Prenatal Care at Families First
In a letter to the editor published Feb. 8, Dr. H. Dixon Turner expressed fierce support for prenatal services in our region. I share his passion to honor patient choices in healthcare and to provide positive outcomes for Families First prenatal patients.
However, Dr. Turner’s letter also included some incorrect information I would like to clear up. Dr. Turner said Families First policies are somehow preventing patients from delivering in Portsmouth. This is not the case. Factors preventing deliveries in Portsmouth are not a result of our policies but shifting dynamics in the community — including a decline in birthrates in Rockingham County, hospital policies and changing relationships among healthcare partners in our service area.
While Families First employs wonderful midwives and family practice providers who provide prenatal care, we do not have obstetricians on staff. Portsmouth Hospital requires obstetricians for deliveries. The only way Families First prenatal patients have ever been able to deliver at in Portsmouth has been through a partnership with Harbor Women’s Health. Dr. Turner also criticized Families First for creating transportation costs for Rockingham County mothers delivering in Strafford County. He must have been unaware that we provide transportation services without charge. If patients do not want to deliver at Wentworth Douglas Hospital, we respect that choice and refer them to Portsmouth area obstetrician practices. In our experience, this is not a widespread problem.
Both Families First and Goodwin were co-founded by local obstetrical practices. Families First, as Dr. Turner stated, was with Harbor Women’s Health and Goodwin was with Garrison Women’s Health. Prenatal care was both organizations’ first and only service and it remains very important to us.
I am proud of both Families First and Goodwin Community Health. The merger of Families First and Goodwin in 2018 to form Greater Seacoast Community Health has strengthened both community health centers. In fact, the merger has allowed Families First to move to a new, state-of-the-art Portsmouth location later this year. The 16,000-square-foot facility will meet the current patient demand and provide the ability to expand. Our goal is always to honor our mission to provide Seacoast residents with high quality medical, dental and behavioral health services regardless of their ability to pay.
I appreciate being able to clarify some points in Dr. Turner’s letter.
Janet Laatsch, CEO, Greater Seacoast Community Health