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Midwife is converting house into birth center

Lucy Seijas, a certified nurse midwife, is transforming an old Crystal River house into a free-standing birth center.

For Ms. Seijas, the project has been a longtime dream. For pregnant women in Citrus County, it will serve as a viable alternative to the standard doctor-hospital care model.

Ms. Seijas has been a certified nurse midwife for a decade and has worked almost all that time with Midwives of Ocala, which is part of Munroe Regional Medical Center. She also has taught at midwifery workshops and is an advanced registered nurse practitioner.

Ms. Seijas bought the house, at 469 NE First St., in February and is working with family and friends to transform it into the Nature Coast Birth Center. She doesn't have the exact records, but the house _ which is within eyesight of U.S. 19 south of State Road 44 _ has been around since at least the 1950s.

There will be two birthing rooms: one bright with lots of light, the other darker and more subdued. Ms. Seijas also is installing a whirlpool bath in a back room.

Ms. Seijas said she plans to handle eight to 10 births a month. As a certified nurse midwife, she is qualified to handle prenatal care, labor and delivery, postpartum care and routine women's health and family planning.

State records show that 801 babies were born in Citrus County last year. Most were born in hospitals with doctors supervising the care. In 1997, Ms. Seijas said, 11 of the 893 Citrus babies were born in a home, and five were born in a birth center outside Citrus.

Why should women consider a birth center instead?

Money is one reason. Ms. Seijas estimated the cost of an average birth using a midwife at $3,200. The combined costs of hospitals and doctors are much more. She said major insurance plans will cover her services.

Another advantage, she said, is that she can offer more personalized, flexible service in more homelike atmosphere. All examinations and meetings _ as well as labor and delivery _ will take place within the birth center's four walls.

"It's very safe, sensitive care," Ms. Seijas said. "Women are in control of what they want. They pretty much set the pace."

If a pregnant woman presents complications, or problems develop later in the pregnancy, Ms. Seijas said she will work with Dr. Allan Hedges, a Crystal River obstetrician-gynecologist who has staff privileges at Seven Rivers Community Hospital.

Ms. Seijas said she plans to be a sole proprietor and might take on a partner later. Her goal is to capture 8 percent of the Citrus market share.

"This has been my long-term goal," she said.

Ms. Seijas plans to plant a garden outside the birth center. Those who want to help with that or any part of the project can call 564-4224 or 795-1442.

News and notes

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the respected non-profit group that accredits many of the nation's hospitals, home care agencies and other organizations _ including Citrus County's two hospitals and many other local businesses _ is beefing up its survey policy, officials announced earlier this month.

Starting Jan. 1, the hospitals and other businesses will receive no advance notice of random, on-site surveys.

Also, the reviews could come nine months to 30 months following the triennial full survey that each facility receives, and the scope and focus of those reviews will vary from organization to organization.

Previously, the commission conducted its unannounced, on-site surveys at the mid-point of the facilities' accreditation cycles, provided 24 hours advance notice of the surveys and let administrators know what standards were scheduled to be reviewed, the agency said.

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