Columbia Opens COVID Nursery Clinic for New Moms and Babies

April 28, 2020

New mothers, particularly from underserved backgrounds, are facing unique economic and health-related obstacles to receiving quality, safe care for their newborn children in the age of the novel coronavirus. For new mothers who test positive for the virus, options for newborn care and for a typical follow-up visit within the first week after birth, are increasingly narrow as local clinics and facilities shut down due to limited personal protective equipment (PPE) and other resources critical for maintaining a safe environment for families. 

To quickly and effectively respond to these urgent concerns, Columbia and NewYork-Presbyterian launched the COVID Nursery Clinic (CNC), which offers high-quality, safe newborn care within the first week of life of birth, regardless of the mother’s health insurance status, to babies delivered here at our hospital. The clinic is supported by a generous $200,000 gift from Hyundai Motor America and Hyundai Hope on Wheels and is led by pediatricians Minna Saslaw, MD and Melissa Stockwell, MD, MPH. In addition, pediatrician Katie Keown, MD, is lending her clinical support, and Melissa Glassman MD, MPH, who is medical director of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital’s Newborn Clinic, has been instrumental in the creation of the clinic.

“We’re very grateful for the generous and kind donation from Hyundai, which will allow us to support mothers and babies at a particularly vulnerable time for them,” says Dr. Stockwell. “We’re looking forward to continuing to expand the care we can provide through this clinic to reach more moms and babies.” 

With the help of Columbia’s new telemedicine infrastructure, mothers in quarantine with COVID-19 can interface with health providers to stay informed about the health of their newborns. Columbia doctors have already provided care for more than 50 such mothers and their babies and are expecting visits, both in-person and virtual, from many more in the coming weeks.

In order to provide the utmost care and protection for patients, doctors at the CNC begin their interactions with a new mother and child via a telehealth visit. The Division of Population and Community Health at NewYork-Presbyterian helps the quarantined mother enroll in the telehealth system, Connect, to get set up. Doctors can then answer the mother’s questions and get a sense of the baby’s health in their home environment. Typically, the next day, a spouse or other caretaker safely brings the baby to the clinic for their follow-up visit, wearing a mask. Over the next few days, the same doctors follow the baby as needed to ensure the newborn’s health until he or she can enter care in the community after the 14-day quarantine period.

With the understanding that the need for newborn healthcare stretches far beyond the first week of life, CNC ensures that mothers are connected as needed to mental health professionals, social service providers, and medical homes open to having mothers who have tested positive for COVID-19 after the quarantine period. In the future, Columbia hopes to scale up the CNC initiative to serve more mothers and children, provide more social care and mental health services in-house, and conduct research on how the coronavirus may affect new mothers, birth, and early life.