Christus Good Shepherd Medical Center-Longview is set to open a 24-hour obstetric-designated emergency department today to improve the quality of maternal care.

The OB emergency department, which is next to the labor and delivery unit, will be staffed by a team of four full-time hospitalists, Christus said.

They all are board-certified OB/GYN doctors, and one OB/GYN doctor will be on duty per shift, along with nurses, medical assistants “and a variety of other people,” said Mark Anderson, chief medical officer of Christus Good Shepherd Health System.

While not disclosing the costs, Anderson said, “It’s an important investment” at a hospital that delivered 170 babies in July.

“This is a significant improvement for the mother and the baby,” Anderson said. “It is improving maternal safety because babies don’t always time when they are delivered.”

Anderson said a patient’s OB/GYN doctor might be on call or at another hospital when she needs immediate attention.

“They are not just there to deliver babies,” Anderson said. He added staff will respond to emergencies such as infections, high-blood pressure or bleeding during pregnancies.

Anderson said the hospital also is responding to a recommendation from the state to improve the quality of maternal care. The Texas Medical Association cited a study that shows maternal death rates in Texas have nearly doubled in recent years because of factors that include drug overdoses, cardiac events and hemorrhage.

To support the new service, the hospital partnered with Ob Hospitalist Group, which says it is a leader in developing and managing 24-hour, on-site OB/GYN hospitalist programs. It is based in Greenville, South Carolina, with an office in Houston.

The partnership will ensure highly skilled, board-certified OB/GYN doctors are on site at all hours to provide expedited emergency care to patients who are greater than 16 weeks along in their pregnancies, the hospital said.

The OB emergency department has six beds, but Anderson said he doubts they all will be in use at the same time. He added patients might be sent home in a few hours or admitted to the labor and delivery unit.

Women needing to go the OB emergency department must arrive at the ER entrance to the hospital at 700 E. Marshall Ave.

Longview Regional Medical Center did not respond Tuesday to questions about whether it operates a similar program or has one in the works.