Eight years ago, Marquette University’s College of Nursing bought out a private medical practice on Milwaukee’s near north side and turned it into a neighborhood health center that primarily reached underserved women.
The Marquette Neighborhood Health Center offered pre- and post-natal care, along with delivery services provided by nurse midwives. The clinic had been struggling financially for several years, running five days a week with eighty five percent of its patients on Medicaid.
On July 10th, the clinic’s doors closed and patients were left wondering where they’d go next.
"The reason that the clinic was so important...was that they were servicing the zip codes in Milwaukee with the highest infant mortality rate and they were trying to work towards decreasing the infant mortality rate in Milwaukee," says Milwaukee neighborhood News Service healthcare reporter Devi Shastri, who wrote an article covering the closure.
With only five weeks notice, the clinic underwent a hasty closure, which was unexpected since a grant still had a year of funding left. However with grant funding decreasing every year and no new grants coming in, the clinic was shut down in correlation with the building lease ending.
The closure left the expectant mothers who were in the midst of the support and education Centering Pregnancy program in a lurch. "The midwives and the nurses are working with (the patients) to help them find other healthcare providers," says Shastri.
In March, Marquette Neighborhood Health Center reported that 98 percent of its pregnancies reached full term - a large accomplishment in fighting Milwaukee's infant mortality rate and 10.5 points above the national average. This success makes the closing of the clinic and its midwifery services an even tougher blow to staff and expecting mothers who were patients at the clinic.
There are now only three places in Milwaukee that offer the Centering Pregnancy program. And while there are other nurse-run clinics for primary care in the city (two through UW-Milwaukee and one under Marquette), "they don't offer the same kind of services and focus on pre-natal care and midwifery the way that this one did," explains Shastri.