On January 1, a new joint operating agreement (JOA) between UW Health and Meriter-UnityPoint Health for obstetrics and neonatal services went into effect, solidifying the relationship our department has had with Meriter for years. According to a UW Health news release, "The joint operating agreement will cover 'mother-baby services' with a plan to operate as if a single entity, offering both patients and referring physicians unified access to care and a more seamless experience."
"This renewed partnership is fantastic for our department and for Meriter-UnityPoint, but it's even better for the moms and babies we care for, and for our community," said UW Ob-Gyn Chair and Professor Laurel W. Rice, MD. "The health of women and babies is everyone's health."
The JOA partnership will be governed by a board with equal representation from both organizations. The chairs of UW Ob-Gyn (Rice), Pediatrics, and Surgery will also have oversight over the JOA.
As always, deliveries will continue at Meriter, and high risk babies will receive care at Meriter’s level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Highest-risk babies will be cared for at the level IV NICU at UW American Family Children’s Hospital. In certain high risk cases, women will be sent to AFCH to give birth.
According to UW Hospital President and CEO Ron Sliwinski, a major benefit of the JOA is to remove economic incentives or disincentives to hold or transfer cases between facilities. With the focus off finances, medical staff will have every incentive to make the best possible decision for each patient.
Chris Rickert of The Wisconsin State Journal praised the patient-centered arrangement in a recent column.
Meriter and UW Health already partner in providing care in the Meriter Birthing Center and NICU, Center for Perinatal Care, OB/GYN care in Meriter clinics and Generations Fertility Care.