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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Prenatal clinics cater to Hispanic mothers

Prenatal clinics cater to Hispanic mothers
Prenatal clinics cater to Hispanic mothers

By AIXA M. PASCUAL
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/07/04
When Ed and Tracey Cota opened their first prenatal care clinic on Atlanta's Buford Highway in May 1998, the small waiting room was packed with 80 patients on the first day.

"We didn't think it was going to be that busy," Ed Cota said.

A year later, they opened a second clinic in Cumming and a third in Austell. Today, the Cotas run six clinics servingHispanic mothers, calledClinica de la Mamá (the Mother's Clinic), in metro Atlanta. By year's end, the couple expects to open three more locations, in Jonesboro, Gainesville and Dalton.

"I never thought it would explode like this," said Ed Cota, who used to work in marketing for a pharmaceutical company.

Since 1998, Hispanic mothers getting care at Clinica de la Mamá have delivered 15,000 babies in metro Atlanta hospitals. .

Clinics offering prenatal care to Hispanics are opening all over the metro area, filling a void left bycounty health departments, which provide little or no perinatal care. Facilities such as Clinica de la Mamá provide alternatives to uninsured Hispanic mothers with low incomes, many of whom are undocumented. At Clinica de la Mamá, the average monthly income for a family of three is $1,200 to $1,400, Cota said.

"People come in, they get care. Their diabetes is taken care of, their high blood pressure is taken care of," said Dr. Andrew Dott, an obstetrician who in 2002 founded Centro Internacional de Maternidad (International Maternity Center), or CIMA, a group of prenatal care clinics for Hispanic women.

CIMA, whose doctors and midwives are on the medical staff at Northside Hospital, has four clinics in the metro area, in Norcross, Cumming, Doraville and Sandy Springs.

For $1,200, women get nine months of prenatal care, which includes laboratory tests, prenatal vitamins, ultrasound exams and regular office visits. Hospital and delivery fees, which can total about $6,000, are extra. But CIMA will help patients get the delivery costs covered by Emergency Medicaid, which in Georgia pays for the deliveries of undocumented immigrant women.

Expectant mothers at CIMA have their babies delivered by midwives, unless it's a Caesarean section or a high-risk delivery, in which case an obstetrician performs it. CIMA providers deliver about 90 babies a month at Northside Hospital in Sandy Springs.

Dott believes his clinics provide affordable, high-quality care. "The men are working for $8 to $10 an hour," he said. "It's costing them about $200 a month to provide prenatal care for their wives. Prenatal care is a great investment."

Clinica de la Mamá, which works with Atlanta Medical Center and other Tenet Healthcare Corp. hospitals, charges women $1,700 for nine months of prenatal care. Delivery and hospital charges are separate.

Clinica de la Mamá contracts with a company that provides round-trip transportation from home to the clinics, which makes it convenient for expectant moms who otherwise would have to rely on their husbands taking them back and forth.

Health care providers such as Clinica de la Mamá and CIMA are the reason Maria Ines Leiva, from Honduras, started getting prenatal care for her third baby. She saw an ad for CIMA in a local Spanish-language newspaper and began going to the clinic in December, when she was three months pregnant.

Leiva had regular blood and urine tests, an ultrasound, a Pap smear, a glucose test and regular checkups that included blood pressure checks before her baby was born in June at Northside Hospital.

CIMA providers see 120 to 140 new patients every month. But for now, there are no plans to expand.

"There's no question the patients are there," Dott said. "It's whether we want to get any bigger."

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