By Dustin Brown
The risks women and their unborn children face if they do not see a doctor during pregnancy are startling.
Hypertension can lead an expectant mother to suffer a stroke or cause the placenta to detach from the uterus, while women with untreated diabetes often miscarry or bear a malformed baby.
“We try to educate patients to come early, because we can prevent the ravages that occur, for instance, if hypertension is left untreated or if diabetes is left untreated,” said Dr. Henry Schiavello of Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, the chairman of the hospital’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and president of its medical board.
Recognizing an urgent need to reach out to neighborhood women and provide them with quality health care at all stages of life, Wyckoff plans to give them a place to call their own.
The Wyckoff Women’s Health Center is now under construction in the shell of an abandoned movie theater at the corner of Wyckoff Avenue and Stockholm Street, catty-corner to the hospital’s main entrance.
Slated to open this fall, the center will integrate the hospital’s women’s health services into a private-practice setting, Wyckoff officials said.
“It was an idea whose time had really come because of the health care needs of the patients in this community,” Schiavello said. “It’s the right move for the right patients at the right time in the right hospital.”
The hospital sits in Brooklyn only a block from the border with Ridgewood, Queens, a neighborhood with a large population of immigrants and high rates of poverty, factors that prevent many women in the area from receiving the health care they need.
The new center will specifically target such at-risk women through educational programs and community outreach.
“It’s the needs of a community that spur a program,” Schiavello said. “Too many don’t have support services, unfortunately. Too many come from areas where they had no care or little care, or patients don’t have the money or the wherewithal to seek it. These patients have a great need in this area for enhanced services.”
To ensure the patients have health coverage, the hospital handles their applications for Medicaid.
The format of the new center is modeled after a typical doctor’s office, with an airy waiting room and large examination rooms.
But instead of having to shuffle from one wing to another or cross the street to visit the hospital, women will be able to receive all of the medical attention specifically catering to their needs in a single building. The center will offer complete prenatal care, breast exams and mammograms, osteoporosis screening, domestic violence counseling, family planning and oncology services as well as infertility and menopausal treatment, among others.
“We do it now, but we do it in crammed quarters,” Schiavello said. “We’re going to be able to decamp the hospital and expand.”
Meanwhile, space that was previously devoted to such services in the main hospital building will be vacated, allowing other departments to expand.
The new space will allow the hospital to dramatically increase its educational programs for women, which will be offered in a large conference room equipped with a television, allowing many more women to participate at once.
The ultimate goal, as Schiavello sees it, is simple.
“The objective is to get a very healthy mom and a very healthy baby.”
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.