Great Barrington – Community Health Programs (CHP) in Great Barrington, in collaboration with Fairview Hospital, has added two certified nurse midwives (CNMs) and one obstetrician-gynecologist to its OB-GYN practice.
CHP provides the only OB-GYN practice south of Lenox and works closely with Fairview Hospital to provide maternity and women’s health care in the community. The Great Barrington practice provides care to women in Southern Berkshire County, Northwest Connecticut, and nearby New York State.
CNMs Lisa Marie Chism-Fraine and Susan Greenberg-Yarmush, along with obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Andrew W. Beckwith, join obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Antoine El Khoury and nurse practitioner Molly Rivest to complete the OB-GYN practice in Great Barrington.
Linda Baxter was the only CNM at CHP, and the only one south of Lenox, from 1988 to 2015, with the exception of a few years in which she was joined by another CNM. Of the approximately 3,500 deliveries in her career, approximately 1,500 were delivered at Fairview Hospital. There was an OB-GYN doctor but no CNMS at CHP or Fairview until Baxter arrived in 1988. Baxter’s retirement in 2015 left a gap in women’s and maternity health care in the community, which largely prompted the new staffing model implemented early this year at CHP.
“From the mid-80’s, when I came, until now, it’s been the same point really, which has been trying to meet the needs of the women in the community,” Baxter told The Edge, “because when the midwifery program started it was all because there was almost no obstetric care in the community.” At the time, Fairview had gotten a grant from the Department of Public Health to run the OB-GYN practice in Great Barrington and hired Baxter.
“Before then, people would show up to the hospital without having received any prenatal care quite commonly, from what I was told,” said Baxter. “When I left, three years ago, women were again not getting the kind of care they wanted.”
When Baxter left, it was thought that the three doctors at the practice could fulfill the needs of the community, Susan Greenberg-Yarmush, a new CNM at CHP, told The Edge.
“I think they discovered that the women here really wanted a midwife presence. And Fairview is a great place to practice with a midwifery model,” said Greenberg-Yarmush. “The nurses support it, it’s a community hospital, it’s for low risk care anyway, so I think Fairview is a perfect place for that type of practice. It’s almost like a birthing center for women who want that.”
Greenberg-Yarmush has been practicing for 14 years. Before coming to CHP, she worked briefly in New York City at Mount Sinai Hospital, and has also worked at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Metropolitan Hospital in New York City.
Greenberg-Yarmush says the practice has been going well at CHP. She has been at the practice since Dec. 15, 2017, and has delivered three births so far. While they would like to bring up their numbers at the CHP practice, Greenberg-Yarmush enjoys the closeness to the community.
“I love getting to know the patients,” she said. “I get to have the type of practice I’ve always wanted to have, the type of practice in which I get to support women in the way they want to be supported, where they have choice for birth, where it’s empowering for them, and I also really want to know my community. I want to be able to be a part of a community. I’ve always worked in such big hospitals where I really don’t know my patients. I might see them twice and I’m lucky. But here I’m really enjoying getting to know people.”
Baxter and Greenberg-Yarmush both emphasized that some people hold stereotypes of CNMs as being old fashioned, but in reality they play a crucial role in women’s and maternal health care around the world, throughout women’s lives, and that in most of Europe CNMs “run the labor floors.” CNMs provide multiple forms of care and participate in every stage of a healthy birth, but do not give surgeries, though they sometimes assist.
“It’s going great,” said Lisa Marie Chism-Fraine, a new CNM at CHP. “It’s been so well received by the staff, the nurses, the patients, and by Fairview.” Chism-Fraine said there have been five births since January.
“CHP and Fairview are very supportive. We are hoping our numbers will grow now that our practice has grown. Instead of just getting more bodies at the practice, we now have a program that integrates more forms of care, more options for care, often more quickly,” said Chism-Fraine. “It’s so nice to be in a place where you are appreciated for what you do, and to bring good experiences. It’s really important to pay attention to our communities and to listen to our communities. And this program really feels like CHP is doing that.”