Hospitals of Community Healthcare System recognized for Excellence in Infant and Maternal Health

Hospitals of Community Healthcare System recognized for Excellence in Infant and Maternal Health

The hospitals of Community Healthcare System were recognized Wednesday, Oct. 28, by the Indiana Hospital Association (IHA), in partnership with Governor Eric J. Holcomb and State Health Commissioner Kris Box, MD, FACOG, for their commitment to infant and maternal health at the first annual INspire Hospital of Distinction recognition program.

INspire, funded by the Indiana Department of Health’s Safety PIN grant, was developed to implement the delivery of best practice care for Hoosier moms and babies and recognize hospitals for excellence in addressing key drivers of infant and maternal health. Community Hospital, Munster; St. Catherine Hospital, East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center, Hobart, Family Birthing Center staff each received the Hospital of Distinction award.

“Indiana’s birthing hospitals are critical partners as we work to drive down infant mortality,” Gov. Holcomb said. “Thanks to their efforts, Indiana’s infant mortality rate has fallen to the lowest level in state recorded history. Together we will continue this important work to save even more lives and give every Hoosier newborn the best opportunity ahead.”

The INspire award recognizes staff based on implementation of best practices in five key areas including:

·         infant safe sleep

·         breastfeeding

·         tobacco prevention and cessation

·         perinatal substance use

·         obstetric hemorrhage

Community Healthcare System’s Family Birthing Center healthcare professionals have been leaders in safeguarding infants, mobilizing to put significant initiatives in place to set standards for healthy pregnancies and programs to give every infant their best start in life. Some of these initiatives include pioneering the use of Halo® Sleepsacks in the newborn and neonatal intensive care nurseries, promoting safe sleep practices, offering free counseling services to encourage and support breastfeeding and providing smoking cessation classes.

“With every new initiative one needs to take that first baby step before you can walk and run,” said Jean Gardner, director of Education Services for Community Healthcare System. “We’re proud to say that we are well into our run to ensure women have the tools they need to achieve a healthy pregnancy and have someone walk with them throughout their parenting journey.”

While Community Healthcare System hospitals work in unison on many of the healthy mom-baby initiatives, they also have been recognized separately for their individual programs and achievements. For example,

St. Mary Medical Center is one of a handful of hospitals in the state of Indiana to be designated as a Baby-Friendly Hospital by Baby-Friendly USA. The nursery also recently has received Level II OB and Level II nursery from the Indiana State Board of Health, indicating a specialized level care for moderate to high risk conditions.

“Maternal and child health and a reduction in infant mortality are among the state’s highest priority health initiatives,” said Brittany Pankiewicz, RN, Family Birthing Center nurse manager, St. Mary Medical Center. “It is a top priority of Community Healthcare System, as well. We are proud to be able to lead the way in creating effective solutions to help women and their babies have a healthy successful first year in life.”

To help provide continuity in care for high-risk pregnancies, Community Hospital has a maternal-fetal medicine program, laborists on staff 24/7 and an Obstetric Emergency Department (OB-ED). The OB-ED is dedicated solely to pregnant women and those up to six weeks postpartum to ensure they receive timely diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, with regard to best breastfeeding practices, Community Hospital in 2020 became the only hospital in Northwest Indiana to receive the International Board of Lactation Consultants’ Care Award for its ‘role model’ efforts to promote optimal infant feeding.

“Community Healthcare System hospitals have a strong history of helping mothers and babies succeed in the first year of life,” said Lauren Hovan, RN, manager of Community Hospital’s Family Birthing Center. “Education and quality care for both routine and complex conditions are an essential part of that support.”

St. Catherine Hospital has been lauded by Lake Area United Way for efforts in mentoring first-time at-risk moms and offering mental health counseling. The hospital also partnered with Safe Haven to have a baby box installed as an added protective measure to enable a woman to anonymously surrender a newborn into a safe caring environment. 

“The baby box is a natural extension of the healthcare system’s mission,” said Tracy Sharp, RN, Family Birthing Center nurse manager, St. Catherine Hospital. “Our goal is to make sure our babies get the opportunity to celebrate their first birthday, and every measure we take gets us one step closer to that goal.”

For more about healthy beginnings at the Family Birthing Centers of Community Healthcare System, visit