Saint Francis Awarded $3 Million Rural Maternity Obstetrics Grant

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced that Saint Francis Healthcare System was awarded a RMOMS (Rural Maternity Obstetrics Management Strategies) grant. The grant, one of only three awarded nationwide, focuses on the six Missouri Bootheel counties of Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Scott and Stoddard. The award totals more than $3 million. Programs in New Mexico and Texas also received funding.

“We are excited about this opportunity to help more mothers have positive outcomes in a high-risk area of our service region,” said Debby Sprandel, Vice President of Ambulatory Nursing at Saint Francis. “This funding will allow us to work with all providers in our area to create a new model of service delivery.”

Pemiscot Memorial Hospital discontinued obstetrics services in 2014 and Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center closed in 2018, leaving many women with no services or quite a distance to travel for care. The RMOMS program seeks to improve access to and continuity of maternal and obstetrics care in rural communities. Collaboration was a key requirement for this grant.

The award brings together 14 separate organizations representing more than 20 separate entities in a joint effort to improve maternal and infant health in the Bootheel. Those 14 organizations include Saint Francis Healthcare System; Missouri Delta Medical Center; Pemiscot Memorial Health Systems; Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center; SoutheastHEALTH; SSM Health – St. Mary’s Hospital; Bootheel Network for Health Improvement (BNHI) representing Dunklin, New Madrid, Mississippi, Pemiscot, Scott and Stoddard County Health Departments; SEMO Health Network; Bootheel Counseling Services; FCC Behavioral Health; Gibson Recovery Center; Bootheel Babies and Families; Building Block/Nurse Family Partnership® and Missouri Bootheel Regional Consortium/Bootheel Healthy Start.

The project, called Bootheel Perinatal Network Project, will support health care providers, hospitals, public health and social support agencies to work together with communities to build on local resources to meet the health care needs of women and newborns. Funding through the RMOMs award illustrates the partners’ commitment to creating a system of care that works equally well for everyone in the Bootheel.

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) commended the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for awarding the grant funding. As chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds HHS, Blunt secured funding for the program in the FY2019 appropriations bill. “Rural areas have unique needs when it comes to all aspects of health care delivery, including maternal health,” said Blunt. “This program will help rural communities develop and implement strategies that will improve access to maternal health in Missouri and provide a model for other areas nationwide. Making sure women in rural areas have access to the care they need to support a healthy pregnancy and birth will remain a priority.”

Dr. Karlyle Christian Ritter, one of the medical directors on the initiative said, “The causes of higher than average maternal mortality and morbidity in southeast Missouri are multifactorial. Having organizations tackle this issue from different vantage points collaborating under one halo will impact the region in a powerful way.”

This program is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $3,252,972 with 7.8% funded with non-governmental sources. The contents of this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

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