The Campaign to Save the North Shore Birth Center

Birth Center Saved; Questions Remain

On the afternoon of December 15th, the Steering Committee got word from the press that the hospital had released a statement declaring that the North Shore Birth Center would remain open.  Here is the Campaign’s response to thier statement:

North Shore Birth Center to Remain Open

Northeast Hospital Corporation Board of Trustees Approves

Plan to Continue Birth Center Operations, But Questions Remain

BEVERLY, MA (December 15, 2008)—In response to the Board of Trustees of Northeast Hospital Corporation announcement that they have approved a plan to keep the North Shore Birth Center open, members of the Campaign to Save the North Shore Birth Center are as cautiously pleased by this major victory on behalf of mothers, fathers, babies, and the North Shore population. Beverly Hospital has listened to the will of the community, and the Campaign applauds their decision insofar as it relates to keeping the Birth Center operational.

However, the Campaign members decry the lack of transparency and lack of direct communication that has been the hallmark of the Board’s and the Hospital administration’s actions since the threat to the Birth Center was brought to the attention of the public. “Although hospital administrators had promised to more openly communicate with us, we learned of this decision indirectly, from the press,” explains Campaign leader Rebecca Hains. “Furthermore, although hospital administrators agreed to meet with representatives of our campaign, they have repeatedly rescheduled that meeting, and they arrived at this decision without having the conversation we were promised. Therefore, many of the community’s concerns and questions remain unanswered.”

For example, the Campaign is concerned by the part of the Hospital’s announcement that appears to adds a new constraint to NSBC deliveries: In their statement to the press, the Hospital notes hat patients will receive fetal monitoring, although the precise type of monitoring remains unclear. Patients birthing at Beverly hospital are subject to electronic fetal monitoring, an unproven and essentially unnecessary technology. NSBC patients have always received intermittent fetal monitoring by handheld Doppler, as is recommended as the best practice by the American Association of Birth Centers and many leading academic studies. The Campaign urges the Hospital to allow the North Shore Birth Center to continue using intermittent fetal monitoring, rather than subject women seeking natural childbirth to the restrictive and problematic electronic fetal monitoring system.

In fact, prior to this decision, the Campaign and several experts in the field of maternity care have provided information to the Board that demonstrates that there is NO evidentiary basis for requiring electronic fetal monitoring and that the practice has NO proven benefit but, rather, great potential for harm because it leads to higher cesarean-section rates. Furthermore, the Campaign feels very strongly that every woman who gives birth at the Birth Center must have complete freedom to make an informed decision about whether or not she will agree to or opt out of electronic fetal monitoring.

Instead of moving move all births to the hospital, the board has voted to move aspects of the hospital to the Birth Center. I am concerned that, although they heard the community’s message: “Keep the birth center open,” they missed the underlying reasoning: we want an alternative that is different!” says Campaign Steering Committee member Sarah Shamel.

Furthermore, the Campaign is concerned that the North Shore Birth Center will be at risk of losing its accreditation by the highly-respected Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers (“CABC”) if electronic fetal monitoring is required. The Campaign remains greatly concerned about this likely loss of accreditation and about the possibility of additional limitations being imposed on the Birth Center in the future.

And here is the statement from Northeast Health Systems:

North Shore Birth Center to Remain Open

Northeast Hospital Corporation Board of Trustees Approves Plan to Continue Services

(Beverly, MA) — The Board of Trustees of Northeast Hospital Corporation announced today that they have approved a plan that will keep the North Shore Birth Center open and allow the Center to continue to provide services to women who are low-risk and prefer a birth center approach to pregnancy and childbirth.

Trustee members worked diligently with hospital administration and clinicians to develop and approve a plan that would allow for the continued operation of the Birth Center on the campus of Beverly Hospital. The Board recognizes the national trend of birth center closings due to rising costs and has decided to take a proactive approach and modify how care will be delivered at the Birth Center. Patients delivering at the Birth Center will now receive fetal monitoring during their delivery.

“I am pleased that we were able to find a compromise that would allow us to keep North Shore Birth Center open to the community,” said Dr. Henry Ramini, President and CEO of Northeast Health System. “By making this slight modification, we will be able to continue to provide this valuable service.”

In a time when healthcare costs are increasing for all hospital services, the Board of Trustees continually evaluates the programs and services provided throughout Northeast Hospital Corporation to ensure that the highest quality of hospital care is available and delivered to the community.

“The Trustees believe in the care that is rendered at the Birth Center and believe that it is a safe birthing alternative for expectant mothers in our community,” said Nancy Palmer, Chairperson of the Northeast Hospital Corporation Board of Trustees. “We recognize and appreciate that the Birth Center is a special place for many families and we are honored to continue to provide this unique birthing alternative.”

The North Shore Birth Center (NSBC) became the first freestanding birth center in the northeast when it opened in 1980.   It is a nurse-midwifery practice, in collaboration with OB/GYN physicians, situated on the campus of Beverly Hospital.  The Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) at the birth center also provide GYN care.  The NSBC’s CNMs attend births at both the Birth Center and Beverly Hospital.

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