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A health care organization is partnering with a Central Florida Midwife to get results for uninsured and underinsured pregnant women, using an unexpected tool: a bus.
It’s called The Midwife Bus and it’s a one-stop-shop for expectant mothers to get the prenatal and postpartum care they need. It’s a maternity clinic on wheels with couches in the waiting room, an exam room with an exam chair, ultrasound machine, lab work capabilities and more. (Yes, this all fits on the bus.)
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The Midwife Bus
Owner Brooke Schmoe is a licensed midwife who had a vision to improve access to prenatal care for those who are uninsured or underinsured.
“Just breaking down barriers when there’s nobody who’s doing that for these people. It’s not good for the community because these babies may not thrive as well because they are not set up with good preventative care and community resources and they struggle,” Schmoe said.
Schmoe founded The Midwife Bus in 2018, leaving the maternity clinic she worked at to take her midwifery on the road. She got a hold of a 40-foot formally retired bloodmobile, then applied for a grant through Orlando Health to get the wheels rolling.
“One of the appealing things about Brooke’s care is that she wanted to take prenatal care to the patient, versus waiting for the patient to come to clinics and the hospital. Some people have a hard time accessing hospitals and clinics and there is a need for this service,” said Suzanne Worthington, president of Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.
With a grant from Orlando Health and donations, Schmoe converted the bus into a mobile maternity clinic. The Midwife Bus has been serving families in Osceola County since 2020, now she’s expanding services to Orange County, in the Holden Heights neighborhood.
The locations for where The Midwife Bus goes are identified through a community needs assessment. Schmoe has an ultrasound tech, certified nurse midwife and office manager as part of her staff, with consulting OBs. For patients who are uninsured, The Midwife Bus charges based on income so no one gets turned away.
The exam room on The Midwife Bus
Maxime Karman was halfway through her pregnancy before she met Schmoe in 2020, saying other maternity clinics wouldn’t accept her insurance.
“Not having a midwife to check the baby was really hard for me and not really knowing what to do to make myself feel better. It was definitely a journey. Once I found Brooke and found the bus, the whole pregnancy turned around and felt like a positive experience,” Karman said. “It gives me hope because when I realized how hard it was to get prenatal care, it was very discouraging. “
The Midwife Bus provided maternity care for Karman through the rest of her pregnancy. Karman gave birth to her daughter Zoa.
Maxime and Zoa with grandma.
“She definitely goes above and beyond, for me. She’s a hero. I think she’s saving a lot of people and making things a lot easier for them and you don’t find a lot of that in the world,” Karman said.
Schmoe said the care she offers is more than just medical-based.
“What has been an even bigger part of it is just the social support. Having people who look fine on the outside and they come in here and open up about things that cause them a great amount of stress and talking to them. I like to make sure they are doing OK mentally, not just physically and being there for them emotionally,” Schmoe said. “It’s a huge gap in our system and it’s unfair but I can also see the flip side too because the liability is huge taking on people who can’t pay or who haven’t had care their whole pregnancy. It’s just a broken system. I’m not trying to do a complete overhaul of the system but just creating a life raft where I can create change in my circle of influence.”
The bus can be found parked every Monday at the Grand Avenue Neighborhood Center located at 800 Grand Street, Orlando, FL, 32805.
This is the bus’s fourth location and was methodically chosen to give patients in the Parramore community with limited or no transportation resources a better opportunity to get to and from the mobile clinic. With the addition of a new clinician, Schmoe and the Midwife Bus’s expanded services now span two counties, providing crucial care to women in several communities.
Click HERE to make a donation to The Midwife Bus.
The Midwife Bus sees all patients by appointment only. Patients can schedule an appointment by calling 321-354-6844 or visiting themidwifebus.org.
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