Hospitals are losing millions to natural birth centers and want to use government regulation to eliminate their competition. According to an employee of a Fort Mill center, Obstetricians from Rock Hill sent an email to a S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) board member in order to shut down the center.

They succeeded. In September, the license for a Fort Mill birth center was suspended pending an investigation by DHEC.

belly_marquee-523x214According to the Charlotte Observer, the center released a statement saying it is appealing the suspension, which stemmed from “a birth with a bad outcome.”

I reached out to one of the midwives who works at the center to get more details.

Christine Struther from Carolina Community Maternity Center states, “we been suspended since September 2nd because of two citations. One was thrown out because they were saying that we didn’t have an agreement with EMS which we do. That wasn’t a valid citation. The other one was regarding a policy statement that we changed and got resolved.”

“So the only reason why we are still suspended is this “physician on call” statute that they are enforcing now. They are able to keep us closed. We are appealing this in court now,” said Struthers.

But this reinterpretation of the statute doesn’t effect just the Fort Mill center. DHEC now requires all birth centers throughout the state to be supervised by physicians or be suspended.

“South Carolina has over 80 percent of physicians working for hospitals already and cannot work for a birth center even if they want to,” said Struthers. “DHEC is not giving birth centers time to comply with this new interpretation of the law, and Birth centers are now being told that they have 15 days to comply or they will be shut down.”

Lesley Rathbun, owner and director of the Charleston Birth Place, told Charleston City Paper that “the state agency is reinterpreting its regulations for birth centers and could end up shutting down non-hospital birthplaces across the state.”

“We’re really concerned about what’s going to happen to the consumers,” says Rathbun. “They do about 30 births a month here, and similar numbers in the other birth centers,” Lenehan says. “These people, as you can see, are looking for a really different product than they’re going to get in the hospital, and they’re not going to be able to get that elsewhere. This is safe, it’s cost-effective, and it’s what the customers desire. So what’s going to happen to all these mothers who are due in three weeks?”


One of the birth rooms at Carolina Community Maternity Center

One of the birth rooms at Carolina Community Maternity Center

I asked Struthers why expecting mother choose to deliver at natural birth centers?

cozy room“Our birth center is beautiful and people love it. I had people literally come into a tour and cry because they want to be here because it’s that nice. They get to be with the same person. If I’m your client, I’m with you the whole time,” said Struthers.

Citizens are outraged that they may lose the freedom to choose where to birth their children because of crony capitalism.

A licensed Midwife, Brandy Brandfass states,H. 3731 is nanny-state legislation at its worst. South Carolinians have historically placed great value on the freedoms we have. When we leave families without access to trained professionals, we eliminate their option to decide among varied, highly-educated maternity care providers. It is restraint of trade, and an attempt to medical monopoly.”

Struthers concurs with Brandfrass and believes that there is a financial motivator behind this audacious move to shut down birth centers. “If you go into a hospital it will cost you over $11,000, and a cesarean section is double that. In S.C. the cesarean section rate is around 34% and last year our cesarean section was about 2% … that’s a lot of money these hospitals are losing.”

 

Struthers is encouraging people to join them in a protest this Monday, Demonstrate DHEC – Rock Hill Rally, and supporters of birth centers have created an online petition with over 2,400 signatures so far.

Editor's Note: My wife and I have used the midwives at Carolina Community Maternity Center for the delivery of our last four children. They are not only professional, but care about their patients and clients are told that if they recommend EMS, the client must comply and sign documents to that effect. These women actually care for their patients, not pop in and pop out. Call me biased, but I've seen it first hand. For a fraction of the cost, these women look after the mother and baby in a superior fashion to any hospital we've been to and post-delivery is much better for mom and baby. Help support these midwives by signing the petition.

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