Covidien awards grant to continue work of Women & Infants' La Van

October 20, 2010

One of the obstacles faced by low-income women needing quality prenatal care is a lack of transportation. The average pregnant woman needs to visit the doctor 14 times during those nine months, which can be a significant financial burden for some.

Realizing a need to transport some women to its Women's Primary Care Center (WPCC) for routine prenatal visits, Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island in 2002 created La Van. The program schedules appointments and transports low-income patients for free.

In fiscal year 2010, however, the viability of the La Van program was jeopardized by budget cuts and a substantial loss of state funds to the hospital. Enter Covidien, a leading global health care products company located in nearby Mansfield, MA. The company recently announced a significant grant through its Covidien Partnership for Neighborhood Wellness program to continue La Van's work.

"Our philanthropic mission is to increase access to quality, affordable health care for the underserved," said Teresa Hacunda, Covidien's director of civic affairs. "The La Van program fully supports this mission."

La Van provides more than 1,000 rides to the WPCC each year, according to WPCC Medical Director Robert Berry, MD.

"Regular doctor visits during pregnancy are important to ensure that women and their babies stay healthy," Dr. Berry explained. "Without transportation, many area women would not be coming into the doctor's office for regular prenatal check-ups. That could be harmful to their health and the health of their unborn babies."

According to the March of Dimes, women who see a health care provider regularly during pregnancy have healthier babies, are less likely to deliver prematurely, and are less likely to have other serious complications related to the pregnancy.

"The Centers for Disease Control report that one in two women die in the United States each day of pregnancy-related complications," Dr. Berry said, adding that studies indicate as many as half of those deaths could be prevented if women had better access to health care, received better quality care, and made positive changes in their health and lifestyle habits.

The new relationship with Covidien is a good match, according to Karen Davie, senior vice president of Philanthropy at Women & Infants.

"¬The Covidien Partnership for Neighborhood Wellness is committed to increasing community access to quality, affordable health care. La Van does that every time it brings a pregnant woman into the WPCC for a visit," Davie said, adding that, "We are grateful to Covidien for helping to sustain this important service. Without La Van, many Rhode Island women would likely place their infants and themselves at risk by missing appointments and failing to receive adequate medical care during pregnancy."
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