Published by Nicole Leonard, Press of Atlantic City

Only a few New Jersey hospitals are fully meeting maternity and childbirth health-care goals, according to a new national report.

The 2018 Maternity Care Report released Tuesday by the Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit patient advocacy group, revealed while a handful of state hospitals excel at reducing childbirth risk factors and unnecessary procedures, a large number do not meet some of Leapfrog’s highest standards.

“We need all the New Jersey hospitals that provide maternity care to meet the Leapfrog standards,” Linda Schwimmer, president of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, said in a statement. “Now is the time for hospital leadership to prioritize maternal and child health throughout New Jersey.”

The United States has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality of any developed country, reports show.

About 26 women per 100,000 live births died from pregnancy-related complications in 2015, according to a Global Burden of Disease Study published in The Lancet.

Leapfrog’s newest report, which used maternity data from the 2017 Leapfrog Hospital Survey, looked at average rates of cesarean-sections (surgical delivery), episiotomies (a surgical cut to the opening of the birth canal during childbirth) and early elective deliveries, as well as other measures for each reporting hospital.

Maternity data from about 47 hospitals in New Jersey were examined for most measures. AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, Mainland Campus, and Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center were the only two with obstetric services that did not report data to the Leapfrog survey and were not included in the report.

Only nine hospitals met Leapfrog’s goal of having 23.9 percent or fewer births done by C-section. Reporting South Jersey hospitals had a range of 25 percent to 36.6 percent, according to the report.

“New Jersey can and must do better to reduce C-section rates, which vary widely among hospitals,” Schwimmer said. “There are times when a C-section is needed. But the hospital where an expectant mother delivers her baby should not be the determining factor of whether or not she has a surgical birth.”

About 11 hospitals met Leapfrog’s goal for episiotomy rates of 5 percent or less. Inspira Medical Center Vineland had one of the lowest rates at 1.9 percent, while Cape Regional Medical Center had the second-highest rate in the state, at 32.9 percent of births.

The good news is all but two reporting hospitals have kept rates of early elective deliveries, or scheduled C-sections or medical inductions performed before 39 weeks of pregnancy without medical necessity, below 5 percent of all births.

Leapfrog researchers said these kinds of deliveries have been on the decline for years. The national rate for elective deliveries was 17 percent in 2010.

Cape Regional and Shore Medical Center both had no early elective deliveries in the reporting period, and Inspira Vineland and Southern Ocean Medical Center both had only 2.6 percent of all births fall into this category, according to the report.

A majority of reporting hospitals also did well in preventing women from developing deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in a deep vein, and reaching expected levels in neonatal intensive care unit outcomes.

Dr. Shereef Elnahal, commissioner of the state Department of Health, said in a statement that officials plan to create a maternal quality health care collaborative that would identify maternity care best practices at high-performing hospitals and make it possible for other hospitals to replicate them.