Salem News >>
Beverly Hospital puts Birth Center closing on hold
August 4, 2022
By Paul Leighton
BEVERLY — Beverly Hospital announced Thursday that it is postponing its planned closure of the North Shore Birth Center.
In a letter to hospital staff, Beverly Hospital president Tom Sands said the hospital has decided to “extend the review process” and that “no further action will be taken toward the closure of the North Shore Birth Center while we extend the process.”
“Doing so will give us the opportunity to bring together leaders from Beverly Hospital, Beth Israel Lahey Health, state public health officials, local elected leaders and members of the community to further discuss the complex challenges associated with feasibly operating the NSBC for the long-term,” Sands wrote.
The announcement gives a least a temporary reprieve for the North Shore Birth Center, which hospital officials were planning to close on Sept. 8. The plan has prompted an outcry from the public and many public officials, who say the center and its midwives provide a unique and vital service for pregnant women and their families. The Birth Center is one of only two free-standing birth centers in Massachusetts.
Rebecca Hains, one of the leaders of the Campaign to Save the North Shore Birth Center, said Thursday she was pleased that hospital officials have agreed to slow down the process.
“I hope they continue to keep going down that pathway and find a way to keep the Birth Center open because it’s so valuable to the community,” Hains said.
Sands said in his statement that while the hospital is extending its review, it is not adding new patients or reinstating patients who left the Birth Center since the announcement of the planned closing.
Hospital officials have cited a shortage of midwives as the reason for closing the center, which opened in 1980 and has delivered more than 10,000 babies. In his letter, Sands said current patients of the Birth Center will continue to deliver at Beverly Hospital, as has been the case since January, and will be supported by Birth Center midwives in their post-partum care.
Sands said the decision to extend the review process came following recent conversations with leadership at the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services and Department of Public Health.
The agency was due to issue a ruling on the proposed closure after holding a public hearing in Beverly last month that drew 200 people, with more than 50 speaking out against the closure. The agency does not, however, have the authority to stop the closure.
The ruling would have to do with how patients would access the same services elsewhere if the Birth Center does close.
In addition to the grassroots campaign by citizens to save the Birth Center, which included a rally with more than 150 people outside the hospital in June and an online petition with more than 3,000 signatures, state and local officials have spoken out against the closing. In July, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Congressman Seth Moulton, of Salem, sent a letter to Sands urging him to keep the center open and requesting information about how the decision was made. They asked Sands to respond by Aug. 11.
In the letter, the lawmakers questioned why hospital officials announced their decision to close the Birth Center eight days after agreeing to a new contract that gave midwives a 27% raise.
Supporters of the Birth Center have cited several studies showing that giving birth at birth centers is both safer and less expensive than delivering in a hospital for people with low-risk pregnancies.
They say closing the center would particularly impact women of color, who face disproportionate rates of maternal mortality and morbidity.
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Staff Writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.
Boston Business Journal >>
North Shore Birth Center pauses planned closure
August 4, 2022
By Cassie McGrath – Reporter, Boston Business Journal
Beverly Hospital has paused the closure of North Shore Birth Center.
The center, which provides holistic maternal care and is located in its own building at the Beverly campus, will continue to serve Massachusetts families for at least another three months after announcing in May that it would close on Sept. 8.
“Over the past several months, we have engaged with members of the community, held a public hearing and worked closely with patients to assure continued access to safe, high-quality women’s health services,” Beverly Hospital president Tom Sands wrote in a letter to his staff on Thursday.
Following meetings with the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services and Department of Public Health, Sands said the hospital decided to extend its review process regarding the closure for at least 90 days. BILH leadership will use that time to have more conversations with state public health officials, local elected leaders and community members to talk about the “complex challenges associated with feasibly operating the NBC for the long-term.”
“We are confident that these will be informative discussions that reflect a shared commitment to safe, high-quality maternal health care,” Sands said. “No further action will be taken toward the closure of the North Shore Birth Center while we extend the process.”
Beth Israel Lahey President and CEO Dr. Kevin Tabb said in a separate letter to EOHHS Secretary Marlou Sudders that no further decisions about NSBC operations will be made in the next 90 days.
Patients being served at NSBC will continue to deliver at Beverly Hospital, which has been the practice since January, and will be supported by midwives at the center for its postpartum care.
Beth Israel Lahey Health, which owns Beverly Hospital, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
The Campaign to Save North Shore Birth Center, a group that has advocated for the center to stay open since the closure was announced, called the pause a “great first step.”
“We look forward to a conversation focused on solutions. There is a lot of work to be done to ensure midwives and patients are being treated with dignity and respect and to preserve reproductive choice for Massachusetts families,” the campaign said in a statement sent the Boston Business Journal. “We hope these conversations with Beth Israel Lahey Health will begin quickly as pregnant patients continue to struggle to access the care and birth options they had chosen for their families.”
When Beverly Hospital announced that the center was closing in a letter to the Department of Public Health on May 11, the campaign quickly jumped into action with rallies and petitions alongside the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
The MNA filed an Unfair Labor Practice Charge against Northeast Hospital Corp., which runs Beverly Hospital, claiming that the hospital lied to nurses during contract negotiations, as the center announced the closure soon after reaching a new contract agreement with nurses.
Beverly Hospital cited staffing shortages as the reason for closing, but the MNA argued that the new contract, which would have increased wages and benefits, could have helped boost staff levels.
Soon after, U.S. senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, along with U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, wrote a letter questioning if the hospital bargained in good faith and raised concerns that the decision to close was more focused on profits than on staffing shortages.
“Beverly Hospital’s decision to close the birth center almost immediately after reaching a contractual agreement to increase wages for the nurses and midwives that work there casts doubt on whether leadership ever intended to effectuate the negotiated wage increases,” the letter read.
Warren, Markey and Moulton also said that facilities like the North Shore Birth Center are especially effective for Black and Indigenous women, who face disproportionate rates of maternal mortality and morbidity.
“At its core, closing the North Shore Birth Center will deny women a choice in birth options and reproductive care, pushing patients away from more affordable, high-quality care into more expensive, hospital-based care,” the lawmakers wrote in its letter to Sands last month.
The Campaign to Save North Shore Birth Center said it’s goal to for the center to re-open as a fully operational birth option for patients and a reproductive care center for women.
“We want midwives to be respected and treated as collaborative care partners. We want the hospital administration to provide the Birth Center with adequate operational resources to thrive,” they wrote.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health acknowledged the closure’s pause in a letter to Tabb on Thursday and laid out the process Beverly Hospital has to comply to at this point.
“The Executive Office of Health & Human Services, in coordination with DPH, looks forward to working with BILH and Beverly Hospital to engage stakeholders and representatives from the community regarding the future plans for the NSBC,” DPH wrote.
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North Shore Birth Center to remain open for now
By Fernando Cervantes Jr.
August 5, 2022
The planned closing of the North Shore Birth Center is on hold. In June, Beverly Hospital, where the center operates, announced plans to close it in September, citing staffing shortages. The center has been open in Beverly for 42 years and is the last birth center operating in Eastern Massachusetts. The center’s midwives offer holistic prenatal and birth care.
In a letter to hospital staff Thursday, Beverly Hospital president Tom Sands stated the hospital’s intentions to “extend the review process” into the closure of the center.
“Doing so will give us the opportunity to bring together leaders from Beverly Hospital, Beth Israel Lahey Health, state public health officials, local elected leaders and members of the community to further discuss the complex challenges associated with feasibly operating the NSBC for the long-term,” he wrote in the letter.
When closing plans were announced in June, a large outcry from community members, including members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, followed.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley tweeted, “we should be using every tool available to expand & improve access to [reproductive] care — not slash it” and linked to a story about the planned closure. Supporters emphasized that the center was one of only a few places for low-cost midwifery-based births in the state, and the closure would disproportionately hurt low-income families and women of color.
Rebecca Hains, professor of media and communication at Salem State University and member of the Campaign to Save the North Shore Birth Center, gave birth to her first child there in 2008.
She attended the recent Department of Public Health hearing in July about the closure. “We have lots of testimony at this point from midwives who worked there previously, even former directors of the birth center,” Hains said about advocacy efforts to keep the center open.
Emilee Regan, spokesperson for the Campaign to Save the North Shore Birth Center, said the pause is just the first step towards ensuring the center’s long-term presence.
“We want the birth center to be open to all patients, to be fully-staffed and to be fully-resourced. To pause the path forward to a closure is a great first step, but we have a lot of work to do,” Reagan said.
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Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.
Becker Hospital Review >>
Massachusetts hospital pauses planned closure of birth center
Friday, August 5th, 2022
Beverly (Mass.) Hospital is postponing the closure of the North Shore Birth Center, according to an Aug. 4 report from The Salem News.
Tom Sands, Beverly Hospital president, said in a letter to hospital staff that the hospital has decided to extend the process and that “…no further action will be taken toward the closure of the North Shore Birth Center while we extend the process,” the letter said.
“Doing so will give us the opportunity to bring together leaders from Beverly Hospital, Beth Israel Lahey Health, state public health officials, local elected leaders and members of the community to further discuss the complex challenges associated with feasibly operating the NSBC for the long-term,” Mr. Sands said in the letter.
Hospital officials initially cited a shortage of midwives as the reason for closing the birthing center, which was slated to close Sept. 8.
Read more here
North Shore Birth Center Gets Second LIfe
BY CHARLIE MCKENNA| August 7, 2022
BEVERLY — The North Shore Birth Center will remain open for at least the next 90 days, after Beth Israel Lahey Health, which owns Beverly Hospital, reversed course, postponing the planned closure of the center to give the hospital more time for conversations with health officials, elected leaders, and community advocates.
Plans to close the center, which serves the entire North Shore and is the last of its kind in Eastern Massachusetts, were announced in May, as BILH cited staffing shortages at the facility. Officials from across the region spoke out against the closure, which they said would have a disparate impact on low-income families who pay out of pocket for their care.
In a statement, Lynn Mayor Jared Nicholson, who spoke out against the closure at a July 20 public hearing, said the delay was a needed step in the right direction.
“Postponing the closure of the North Shore Birth Center is the right decision,” said Nicholson, whose son was born at the center. “Particularly given the state’s healthcare goals and the barriers to healthcare access in Lynn, we should be increasing access to community birth in the region, not taking it away.”
Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem), said she and the rest of the North Shore congressional delegation worked hard to get officials to “press pause” on the closure of the Birth Center.
“I’m very pleased to see they’ve pressed pause as we’ve asked them to do so that we can work together with the delegation with the hospital, with any of the communities, the advocacy community, to be able to come up with a plan. Maybe it isn’t reopened to birth in a year, maybe it might take two years, but when you apply for proposals to the DPH to essentially void that license. It’s game over,” Lovely said. “It doesn’t look like that we would be able to reverse that so very happy that Lahey Beverly has said we will press pause.”
Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), who joined Nicholson, Lovely, and other members of the North Shore congressional delegation at the July hearing, said there was a lot more work to do to help save the Birth Center.
Crighton said he looks forward to “working with advocates, public health officials, and the hospital” on this issue.
However, despite backpedaling on the center’s closure, hospital officials announced that the center would not be accepting new patients or reinstating former patients, a move that advocates said would render “the birth center closed from a patient’s perspective.”
Lovely said that policy did not concern her, as the center does not have the personnel to support accepting or reinstating patients.
“They literally don’t have the workforce personnel,” she said. “If they can’t provide the services, if they don’t have the personnel, then they can’t. That’s ok.”
While officials work to restore staff at the center, BILH intends to create a somewhat similar setting to the birth center inside Beverly Hospital, Lovely said.
“There are new mothers that want to have this option and we just can’t take that away from them,” she said. “They don’t have the workforce to deliver. So your option is to deliver in the hospital. They’re going to try to recreate a setting in the hospital in the interim and I’m very appreciative of that.”
Rep. Jamie Belsito (D-Topsfield) said the birth center offers a wide range of reproductive health care services.
“When we take a look at how we take care of women, it is in a supportive, caring environment that when the senator, myself and subsequent other legislative leaders, sat at that DPH hearing. I have to be very frank, it was the first time I realized that the Beverly birth center wasn’t just a place I could have had my girls, which if I could go back I would. But I could have been receiving my own gynecological and reproductive health care at this facility, that if my girls, which I have a 12 and a nine-year-old, I would bring them there immediately,” Belsito said. “They do full spectrum care for women, and there were women there well into their 60s talking about how they continue to receive their health care from this facility.”
“This is a fully supportive environment where women can go and they can receive their reproductive care,” she said.
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