Petition to Save the North Shore Birth Center

There is a very serious move to close the North Shore Birth Center, a midwifery practice situated on the campus of Beverly Hospital in Beverly, Massachusetts.

On Tuesday, November 18, 2008, the Board of Trustees of the Northeast Health Corporation considered the proposal to close the Birth Center. During that early-morning meeting, nearly 200 people, adults, children, and babies bundled up against the cold and held a rally. This rally advocated for the same things as previous efforts, which included a letter-writing campaign, daily picketing, and an open letter to the Board:

  1. A delay of the vote on the Birth Center's fate, since such an important decision with long-term consequences for our community should not be rushed, and
  2. A meeting between community members and the Board of Trustees, to seek more transparency about the Hospital's concerns and to open some dialogue that would allow the community, which had thus far felt silenced by hospital administration, which refused to communicate with representatives of our campaign, a real voice in this decision.

Featuring energetic speakers, colorful signs, and lots of cheering, the rally outside of Beverly Hospital made headlines: All the major Boston television stations, newspapers, and radio stations covered the story.

However, we are not out of the woods yet. As the Boston Globe points out, this statement "ma[kes] it clear that the center's future is still very much in question." We still need your help!

Help us save NSBC!

The members of this group are against this proposal and want the Board of Trustees to vote against it. Women deserve to choose the birth experience that is right for them and their families. We ask the Board of Trustees to refrain from making a decision that would deny this choice to families of the North Shore.

NSBC is one of only two birth centers left in the entire state of Massachusetts! Let's work together to protect it!

 

Wednesday, November 13, 2008

An Open Letter to the Board of Trustees of the Northeast Health Corporation

One week ago today, on November 5, we first heard the news that the North Shore Birth Center (NSBC) on the campus of Beverly Hospital might close its doors to women planning to labor and give birth in the birth center. Having given birth to 6,503 children there in the past 28 years, families from the region were stunned and heartbroken.

In the past week, a truly grassroots movement has mobilized around these concerns, driven by the passion the community feels for its birth center. Literally hundreds of people are involved.

At an emergency community meeting held on Sunday, November 10, we%u2014the undersigned%u2014agreed to serve as a steering committee for the Campaign to Save the North Shore Birth Center and speak with hospital representatives about this case. Unfortunately, our request for a meeting with the Board of Trustees prior to November 18, when this issue may be voted upon, has been dismissed. Therefore, we write you this letter.

Why We Care

It is in the best interests of families in the region for NSBC to remain available as a choice. This is a serious public health issue. The underpinnings of our rationale are as follows:

  • Reputable studies have found that birth center births are frequently even safer than hospital births for low-risk women and their babies, with a lower likelihood of complications.  An information sheet from the American College of Nurse-Midwives lists the major birth center studies, all published in highly reputable medical journals.
  • Studies have also found that the use of medical interventions such as electronic fetal monitoring, the administration of Pitocin to strengthen contractions, the administering of epidurals as pain relief, and so on often %u201Ccascade%u201D unnecessarily into c-sections.  The recently released report, Evidence-based Maternity Care:  What It Is and What It Can Achieve, jointly published by the highly-respected Childbirth Connection research organization, the Reforming States Group, and the Milbank Memorial Fund, contains summaries of the results of these studies.  A copy of this report was provided to you by Judy Norsigian of the Our Bodies Ourselves Book Collective.
  • Unfortunately, such studies conclude that medical interventions common to hospital deliveries are often unnecessary and detrimental to the health of babies and women. Low-intervention childbirth is the safer option for mother and child alike.
  • Studies have demonstrated that birth centers, which are more conducive to the low-intervention childbirth that some families desire, are as safe as or safer than hospital births. The Childbirth Connection/Milbank report, referenced above, thoroughly describes these studies.
  • NSBC has a 28-year track record of safe, successful, natural childbirth. Regional families are entitled to continue receiving the superior quality of care offered there.

On Interventions

The World Health Organization has stated that a c-section rate of 15% is acceptable (see Dennis Thompson, %u201CSoaring C-section Rate Troubles Doctors,%u201D The Washington Post, July 13, 2007. Unfortunately, the rate of cesarean sections at Beverly Hospital is 32.4% (source: the Massachusetts Department of Health).

In contrast, the North Shore Birth Center%u2019s non-interventionist philosophy makes it a safe place for women to give birth without risk of unnecessary interventions. These are the 2007 c-section rates for their patients:

  • C-sections for babies delivered at NSBC: 0%.
  • C-sections for NSBC patients overall (including those who planned to give birth at Beverly Hospital because they were %u201Crisked out%u201D for medical reasons): 18%
  • C-sections for all women beginning labor at NSBC, including those transferred to the hospital: 5%

The North Shore Birth Center deserves applause for providing demonstrably superior quality of care. Families from our community must continue to be afforded this safe, healthy option.

Moving Forward

For these reasons and more, we demand that the North Shore Birth Center continue its full range of operations. Before you make your final decision, we urge you to postpone the vote that may occur on November 18, especially given the following factors:

  • A lack of transparency.
    • Community members have been kept in the dark about why the hospital is making this proposal, and we still do not understand the rationale.
  • The community has not had an adequate chance to weigh in on this issue.
    • Your decision will affect the region for years to come. We deserve more time to ensure that the Board of Trustees fully deliberates upon our perspective.
  • We have the support of national experts who would also like to weigh in on this issue.
  • We would like time to make our case to Beverly Hospital%u2019s new interim CEO, who as a new appointee thus far has not been involved in these conversations.

Furthermore, we urge you to agree to a meeting with delegates from the Campaign to Save the North Shore Birth Center.

We also urge you to accept the offer of the American Association of Birth Centers, which is willing to advise and, if necessary, mediate this issue.

The Birth Center is a vital community resource and treasure. When you do finally vote on the proposal that is being put before you, please%u2014cast your vote with the community. But until then, please take actions to demonstrate your commitment to the community: Postpone the vote, schedule a meeting with us, and give this important decision the full deliberation that it deserves.

Sincerely,

Rebecca Hains, Cathleen Barstow, Jennie Cudmore, Amy Kreydin, and Sarah Shamel
The Steering Committee of the Campaign to Save the North Shore Birth Center
http://savethenorthshorebirthcenter.wordpress.com

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