Monday, May 10, 2010

For Mother's Day Monday, the big business of birthing . . .

Hodnett ED, Downe S, Edwards N, and Walsh D did a study in 2005 on  "Alternative [homelike] versus conventional institutional settings for birth." The study concluded, "home-like institutional birth settings reduce the chances of medical interventions and increase maternal satisfaction, but it is important to watch for signs of complications."
Early last month, I posted something rather silly on Facebook, and I think it was WMRAer Suzanne Keene who suggested I report on something important, such as the closing of the Birthing Center at Stonewall Jackson Hospital in Lexington. Okay, it took a while, but in light of the forum taking place today in Lexington, I felt today was finally the day.

Stonewall Jackson Hospital is more properly known as Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital. Its birthing center closed on the first of this month. Coincidentally, the Bedford Memorial Hospital (which operates "in partnership" with Carilion) announced the closing of its Birthing Center in October.

The hospitals are both critical access hospitals -- federally certified to meet the needs of under-served (rural) areas.  This means that they do not offer state-of-the-art emergency care for baby and mother should there be birthing complications.

The two Birthing Centers are contrasts in busy-ness. Seventy-three percent of Bedford women are already traveling to other, larger hospitals. In Lexington, however, 55% of area woman giving birth used the Birthing Center.

"We held on as long as we could," Dr. Thomas McNamara, president of Stonewall Jackson, said in a news release. "We are the last Critical Access hospital in the state to offer OB [obstetric] services, but we simply don't have enough patients and physician participation to continue."

I'm not sure whether viability was attached to profitability.

Evidently Suzanne Keene is not the only Lexington-area person who disagrees with the decision to close the Birthing Center. Domnica Radulescu, chair of the Women's and Gender Studies Program at Washington and Lee University sent me this e-mail, which I thought I'd pass along:
The Women's and Gender Studies Program at Washington and Lee University . . . is organizing and sponsoring a discussion Forum on the issue of the recent closing of the Birthing Center at Stonewall Jackson Hospital in Lexington.  The Forum will take place on Monday May 10 at 4:00 p.m., in the Elrod Commons Living room of W&L university and will be hosted by program chair Domnica Radulescu and moderated by Psychology Professor and member of the WGS Program Julie Woodzicka.

Although the WGS program is an Academic program we see the recent decision made by Carilon and the issues confronting women in our area as a result of this decision as a clear illustration in real life of many of the theoretical and historical components explored by students and faculty in our program and feel compelled to become involved in efforts to deal with the situation as a productive way of putting theory into practice and of seeing feminist activism in action.

The closing of the Birthing Center is deemed to have numerous negative impacts on the communities of Rockbridge and Allegheny counties. It will affect the lives and health of women and babies in the area and make it much harder, particularly for economically disadvantaged women, to obtain high quality prenatal, birthing and post natal care for themselves and their infants.  It will also make it harder to draw young professionals to the area, including hiring new faculty at Washington and Lee.

The main purpose of the forum is to create a safe space for a productive discussion on the options, initiatives and solutions to this problem and find the most productive ways as a community to respond to this challenge and help women and children in the area.  There already have been petitions circulated as well as efforts to look at the implementation of such projects as a free standing clinic for pregnant women, shared maternity and other ideas.  Health care professionals such as the certified nurse midwife from Roanoke Kate Winstead will be present and speak at the Forum. These efforts have been led largely by Cassandra Perez and Gloria Smitka who will also speak at the forum on Monday. 
  Any thoughts on this situation? On the business of birthing in general?

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