Overflow Crowd at the First Learning Collaborative of PA PQC in Harrisburg

The capacity crowd at the first learning collaborative of the PA PQC.

 The statewide kickoff for the Pennsylvania Perinatal Quality Collaborative (PA PQC) was standing-room only. The April 24 event at the Harrisburg Hilton was the first gathering of healthcare professionals who will work across disciplines to improve maternity care for mothers and infants and to prevent needless mortalities.

"We planned for 150 people, got another 50 at the last minute, and then had 50 appear unannounced. We had to up the rooms, up the seating, up the food," said JHF administrative assistant Jessica Bombassaro, who fortunately has years of experience in the hospitality industry. "Everyone was telling me how excited they were that Pennsylvania finally has a PQC. I could tell there was such a yearning for it."

Pennsylvania is the 35th state to create a PQC, which are encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for their successful track record in improving health outcomes for mothers and babies. PQCs are networks of teams comprised of physicians, nurses, midwives, social workers, pharmacists, administrators, quality and safety leaders, and other licensed and unlicensed professionals. They identify processes that need to be improved and quickly adopt best practices to achieve collective aims.

Administered by JHF and its operating arm WHAMglobal (Women's Health Activist Movement Global), the PA PQC is an action arm of the state's Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC). The MMRC was created by the Legislature and Administration last year to address the high rate of women dying before, during, or after childbirth — a statistic that has doubled since 1994. The Wolf Administration is contributing $500,000 to support the creation of the PA PQC. The Henry L. Hillman Foundation also contributed a $120,000 grant.

"This is a statewide effort with strong leadership from maternity and neonatal providers, health systems, delivery sites, health plans, state agencies, and other stakeholders across the Commonwealth," said JHF Director of Government Grants and Policy Robert Ferguson.

Over 40 birth hospitals or facilities and over 10 health plans from across the state have joined the PA PQC. These community partners will also collaborate to improve care for pregnant and postpartum women and newborns affected by opioids. The PQC will be addressing other quality markers in years to come.

"Today is a culmination of over five years of work, but as the opioid crisis became more evident, we knew that this is the key issue we need to focus on now. But this is just the start. This is going to grow to address other perinatal issues," said Jim Cook, MD, executive director and neonatal lead of the PQC that operates in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

"The PA PQC validates what we are innovating at a local level," said Marcia Klein-Patel, MD, PhD, an obstetrician and gynecologist who serves as vice chair of the Women and Children's Institute at Allegheny Health Network. "Whether it's around substance use, mental health, social determinants of health, or clinical best practices, we can work together as a collaborative to identify and disseminate the data and information that improves care for women."

"This has been a long time coming and much needed but there is so much enthusiasm in the state for the PA PQC," said UPMC Vice President of Women's Health Services Maribeth McLaughlin, MPM, BSN, RN. "There is an incredible amount of expertise here and we're working in a collaborative manner. Part of this is about the opioid crisis but it goes beyond that. We have wonderful perinatal centers across state but there is a lot we need to do and can for rural obstetrics. When you look at the work going on across the country, everyone is moving towards focusing on levels of care and regionalizing care." Ms. McLaughlin is also vice president of operations at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital.

The work of the PA PQC is documented on the WHAMglobal website at www.WHAMglobal.org/papqc.

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