by Staff Reports
Selecting the right obstetrician early on in your pregnancy can make a huge difference in your health and that of your newborn.
Fortunately, finding that connection in Pinal County is easier than you might think.
Sun Life Health, a medical group with roots in Pinal County and the East Valley, has five doctors specializing in obstetrics, including Dr. Jonathan Willms, Dr. Susan Stein, Dr. Ryan Schmidt; Dr. Pavel Petkov, and Dr. Logan Walter, who have a combined 53 years of experience.
Those five are the doctors on call at the maternity center at Banner Casa Grande Medical Center, which was recently recognized by Newsweek as one of the nation’s premier maternity hospitals.
Newsweek partnered with The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit organization that reports on the safety and quality performance of U.S. health care facilities, to highlight the Best Maternity Hospitals of 2021.
To earn recognition from Newsweek, several benchmarks had to be met. An important one is the rate of primary cesarean sections versus vaginal births. Most hospitals aim to keep the rate of primary C-sections at 25%. To be considered for the award, the rate had to be less than 23.9%. The rate for Sun Life Health is 12%.
Willms, who also serves as the director of maternity care at Sun Life, says that avoiding C-sections is the healthier way to go for the mother.
“Once you’ve had that first C-section, most of the time you’re going to end up with a C-section next time,” Willms says. “And with each additional C-section, there are higher risks such as increased risk of infection or damage to the bladder or the intestines.”
Four years ago, Willms was instrumental in helping to elevate the care of infants in Casa Grande. Under his watch, the facility attained and maintained approval to operate a level 2 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), which means that the facility can care for infants 32 weeks and older. Most community hospitals have a Level 1 NICU, which means they can only care for infants 36 weeks and older.
“It’s a real achievement that a hospital of this size has a level 2 NICU,” Willms says. “There aren’t a lot of community hospitals out there with that ability. It has to be a relief for parents to not have to drive 40 minutes to spend time with their infants. Instead, for most, it’s only a 15-minute drive. That’s a big difference in a lot of parents’ lives.”
Samantha Reinhard, the Director of Community Outreach at Sun Life Health, says that a successful delivery starts in the early phases of pregnancy.
“It’s a testament to our education level and our patients being able to reach out to us and feel comfortable about where they stand,” Reinhard says. “Unfortunate circumstances can happen quickly, and if you have that communication established with your provider, you’re more likely to call and get the help you need.”
The team at Sun Life Health is big enough to be there when you need them but small enough to know your name, Reinhard says.
“The fact is that they are, really, the only people you might encounter when you go to Banner Casa Grande Medical Center,” she says. “Unlike other hospitals, you don’t get lost in the shuffle of whoever’s just on call that day, because it is us!”
Sun Life also offers gynecological care.
Willms says Sun Life strives to offer the highest level of evidence-based medicine and practice backed up by proven guidelines.
Part of that approach is to opt for the least invasive form of treatment when possible.
“Ninety percent of our surgeries are performed in a minimally invasive manner,” Willms says. “Our practice has a very high commitment to minimally invasive surgery.”
To achieve this goal, the staff avoids putting a patient under the knife and, for example, opts for performing a hysterectomy with a robotic arm, known as the Da Vinci robot.
“My patients go home that day,” Willms says. “Whereas if we operated and used the larger incision, they might have to stay in the hospital for two to three days.”
“There’s still some pain, but the recovery is much faster.”
Regardless of whether a woman’s pregnant or in another phase of her life, Willms says the staff at Sun Life Health are there to help.
“We want them to leave our offices healthier and to have a better quality of life as a result of interacting with us. Our commitment to our patients comes first and foremost.”