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Wake Forest Baptist birthing center set to be unveiled this month; medical center will again compete with Forsyth Medical

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center will unveil its new birthing center in Winston-Salem on June 25, putting it in direct competition on obstetrics with Novant Health’s Forsyth Medical Center for the first time since the late 1970s.

In an advisory Tuesday, Wake Forest Baptist said the labor and delivery center and neonatal intensive care unit will have 51 private patient rooms, including at least two set aside for twins.

There will be 100,000 square feet dedicated to the center and unit.

“The new labor and delivery facility includes a number of unique features and services that provide the highest levels of convenience, comfort and patient- and family-centered care, from routine, traditional births to complex births,” Wake Forest Baptist said in the notice.

Wake Forest Baptist announced the birthing center in July 2018, saying at the time it would likely start delivering babies in late 2019. It now says the services should begin by late July.

“A couple of months ago, we let Novant leaders and our community providers know construction was progressing well and we would be opening sometime this summer,” Wake Forest Baptist spokesman Joe McCloskey said.

“This exciting expansion has been a substantial project, and we are thrilled with how this space has turned out.”

Long-standing agreement

Under a 1977 contractual agreement between the two hospitals, Wake Forest Baptist voluntarily stopped offering low-risk labor and delivery procedures on its main campus, instead focusing on high-risk pregnancies and deliveries. In low-risk cases, Wake Forest Baptist obstetricians deliver babies at Forsyth.

The birthing agreement led to a later agreement that allowed Wake Forest Baptist to operate the trauma center that covers Forsyth County and much of Northwest North Carolina.

Forsyth had the second highest number of deliveries in North Carolina in 2018, at 6,510, according to preliminary totals from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Julie Ann Freischlag, Wake Forest Baptist’s chief executive and dean of the School of Medicine, has said about half of those births were handled by Wake Forest Baptist doctors.

By comparison, Wake Forest Baptist had 24 high-risk deliveries in 2018, whether identified for such care early in the pregnancy for the sake of the mother or baby’s health, or because complications that occurred while the mother was giving birth.

When asked about the Wake Forest Baptist birthing center news, Novant Health Inc., which owns and operates Forsyth Medical Center, said in a statement that “we look forward to continued conversations, but we don’t have an update to share at this time.”

Freischlag said in July 2018 that Wake Forest Baptist officials had been discussing the resumption of traditional delivery services in recent years. She said her appointment as head official in May 2017 spurred renewed interest from employees on the subject.

Freischlag said she isn’t anticipating any pushback on its attempt to resume deliveries, saying initially the discussion centered on offering birthing services to Baptist employees.

However, she acknowledged that the service would be available to all women in the region, particularly those who have a Wake Forest Baptist obstetrician.

Freischlag said Wake Forest Baptist believes “there are enough deliveries in the county annually to support two birthing centers.”

“Our physicians will continue their normal advising patterns with patients, with the ability to inform them they have another in-county choice for where to give birth,” she said.

Tensions ahead?

The apparent expansion of birthing-center plans may add tension to the relationship between Wake Forest Baptist and Forsyth Medical Center.

When Wake Forest Baptist confirmed its plans to resume birthing services, Dr. Stephen Motew, Forsyth Medical’s top executive at the time, called the decision “surprising and disappointing.” ( On May 13, Motew became the chief physician executive of Inova Health System of Falls Church, Va.)

While still head of Forsyth Medical, Motew said in July 2018 that the hospitals’ joint venture had held together for more than 41 years because it was “predicated that we are better together for the community ... on patient health, and we have done better as a result.”

The last time the health-care systems had a major public clash was in their efforts to open community hospitals 4 miles apart in the western part of the Triad — Novant in Clemmons and Wake Forest Baptist in Davie County, a conflict that lasted from 2007 until a settlement was reached in December 2009.

Novant initially had no comment on Baptist’s birthing center plans in July 2018, but later that month Motew said he wanted to let the community know that Forsyth Medical would “continue to provide the same level of high quality, high complexity, established and complete spectrum of care for mothers and babies.”

“It’s here at Forsyth, it will remain at Forsyth, and we’re very proud of this program for its long-standing commitment to the community,” he said.

Collaboration at risk?

Motew also said that July that Wake Forest Baptist’s plan could affect other collaborative efforts between the two hospital systems.

“These moves by Wake Forest Baptist have diverged from that vision, or so it seems,” Motew said.

“We are determined to compete and grow services at Forsyth Medical Center, especially in the category of women’s care and neo-natal care,” he said.

Freischlag said in July 2018 that “academic medical centers like ours often partner with more than one community health system in cities around the country to provide physician expertise.”

“Our obstetricians, anesthesiologists and neo-natologists have worked alongside those employed by Novant and in private practice to manage and ensure the highest quality of care for moms and babies for the past 45 years,” she said.

“We believe an on-going partnership is good for the community and with good precedent,” Freischlag said.

School’s out for summer

Lewisville Fire Department personnel provided a spray of water for Lewisville Elementary School students on their last day of school Tuesday. The fire department has provided the tankers for five years in a row.

Walt Unks/Journal  

Lewisville Fire Department personnel provided a spray of water for Lewisville Elementary School students on their last day of school, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. The fire department has provided the tankers for five years in a row. (Walt Unks/Winston-Salem Journal) 20190612w_nws_lastday

Roles of WS/FCS school resource officers could expand

The staff of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools proposed several changes Tuesday night that would possibly expand the roles of school resource officers.

The resource officers would have more flexibility and visibility throughout the schools and be asked to attend high school graduations.

“In October of 2018, there was a legislative change that required school resource officer training for all SROs that’s offered by the Academy of Justice that has to happen within 12 months of being appointed as an SRO,” Dionne Jenkins, attorney for the school district, told the Board of Education.

Officers would also have to cooperate with marketing and communications on press releases and media events.

In addition, at schools with two officers, one of them would assist with traffic control.

The school system is proposing contracts for school resource officers during 2019-2020 with the Winston-Salem Police Department, Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and the Kernersville Police Department. At least one school resource officer would be assigned to every middle school and high school. Two officers would be assigned to Glenn, Parkland, West Forsyth and Reagan high schools. The cost is $4.3 million.

In other business, the board of education approved changing the school district’s 2019-2020 early release day to Oct. 9 from Oct. 16, which is a PSAT administration day.

Brent Campbell, spokesman for the school district, said that historically early release days, when school gets out two hours early, have been used for professional development of school staff.

The board also approved the 2020-2021 school calendar. Opening day will be Aug. 24, with winter break from Dec. 19-Jan. 3 and spring break from March 27-April 4. School will end June 8. The calendar could have changes if early release dates are added back into the calendar or there is a need to meet new legislative requirements.

Prison ordered to continue ensuring medical care for Surry County woman with breast cancer

A judge has extended an order requiring federal prison officials to ensure medical care for a Surry County breast-cancer patient serving time in Alabama.

According to court papers, Angela Michelle Beck, 47, found a lump in her left breast in August or September 2017 while she was taking a shower at the Federal Correctional Institute in Aliceville, Ala. She was examined by a prison doctor in October 2017 and had a mammogram in December 2017.

It took eight months, however, before she got a biopsy, according to a lawsuit she filed in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of North Carolina. A cancer specialist with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center said in court papers that she should have had a biopsy within one to two months after she detected a lump.

Beck didn’t get surgery to remove her left breast until two months after the biopsy, court papers said. It would take another five months before she met with an oncologist for follow-up treatment, according to the lawsuit. By that time, she had found two lumps in her right breast.

Beck is serving 13 years and nine months for drug and firearms offenses connected to a large-scale methamphetamine operation in Surry County.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles issued an order in May to ensure that Beck got the medical care she needed. On Monday, she extended that order until June 24.

The lawsuit is seeking a preliminary injunction that would permanently ensure medical care for Beck. Separately, an attorney in her criminal case has filed a motion for compassionate release. If that is approved, Beck would be released from federal prison based on her medical condition.

Eagles held a hearing on both issues on June 5 in U.S. District Court in Greensboro, but she has not made a decision.

The order Eagles extended on Monday would require federal prison officials to coordinate with outside medical providers so that Beck can have a particular test that an oncologist had ordered in April. Federal prison officials also would be required to make sure Beck is transported to all existing medical appointments.

They also have to ensure that, within 72 hours, any “follow-up tests, procedures, treatment, or appointments ordered, recommended, or indicated to be ordered by the treating physician are scheduled or implemented.”

Eagles said that the “longstanding failure of the Bureau of Prisons to provide timely medical care for Ms. Beck’s breast cancer” provides good cause for the extension of the order.

At the June 5 hearing, Joan Brodish Childs, a lawyer with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, didn’t specifically deny Beck’s allegations but said Beck did not exhaust administrative remedies within the federal prison system.

She also argued that it would not make sense for a federal judge to manage medical care in a complex process that includes having to coordinate transportation for inmates to and from outside doctors.

She also said that, in the last two months, federal prison officials have successfully made sure Beck has been taken to all her scheduled appointments with medical providers.

Winston-Salem Journal