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February 19, 2014

Feb. 19, 2014

For more information,
Contact: Amy Styles, Covenant Health
(865) 374-0425, or
Jennifer Lawson, Moxley Carmichael


Five Covenant Health hospitals that offer obstetrics services have been recognized by the Tennessee Hospital Association for reducing the number of babies born electively between 37 and 39 weeks, thereby increasing their chances for better lifelong health.

Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center and Parkwest Medical Center in Knoxville; LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville; Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge; and Morristown-Hamblen Health System in Morristown each received the recognition from the THA’s Tennessee Center for Patient Safety.

All five medical facilities met the goal of decreasing the number of babies delivered electively between 37 and 39 weeks gestation to 5 percent or less, and maintained the goal level for a minimum of six consecutive months. The hospitals were awarded a congratulatory banner to recognize their teams’ outstanding effort.

The two-week wait dramatically increases the chances for good physical and developmental health of babies. It also allows for better health and safety of the mother. There is a greater risk of complications associated with births prior to 39 weeks, and waiting until then allows for better growth and development of vital organs such as the brain, lungs and liver.

“Babies born too early are at risk for respiratory distress, jaundice, hypoglycemia and other conditions that require more medical care and put them at greater risk for death before their first birthday,” said Craig A. Becker, THA president. “That is why the work being done at these hospitals is so vitally important to all Tennesseans. Results like these represent the combined efforts of every single professional at these hospitals, from the physicians and nursing staff to the board of trustees.”

The Covenant hospitals are part of a statewide Healthy Tennessee Babies Are Worth the Wait initiative launched less than two years ago to increase awareness of the benefits of full-term delivery. In May 2012, nearly 16 percent of all Tennessee deliveries that occurred prior to 39 weeks gestation were considered elective. Today, that number has been reduced by almost 85 percent. Among other activities, the Covenant obstetrics departments adopted a strict policy that prohibits early elective deliveries before 39 weeks unless there is a clear medical risk to the mother or the baby.

“A healthy, full-term baby is always worth the wait, and Covenant Health is proud to lead this effort to decrease the number of infants delivered electively before 39 weeks,” said, Jim VanderSteeg, Covenant Health Executive Vice President-Hospital Operations. “Two additional weeks may not seem like much time, but for an infant, it can mean the difference between complications leading to lifelong health issues and a healthy and robust start.”

The Healthy Tennessee Babies Are Worth the Wait program is a partnership of local hospitals, the Tennessee Department of Health, THA, Tennessee Initiative for Perinatal Quality Care, March of Dimes and Tennessee Center for Patient Safety. The coalition has been recognized nationally as an example of successful collaboration in patient safety. For more information about the Healthy Tennessee Babies Are Worth the Wait program, go to

About Covenant Health

Covenant Health is a not-for-profit health system providing comprehensive health services throughout East Tennessee. Headquartered in Knoxville, Covenant Health includes eight acute care hospitals as well as numerous outpatient health care services, physician offices and wellness programs. Covenant Health has more than 10,000 employees, volunteers and affiliated physicians.