Save St. Vincent's and its Maternity Care Services

To NYC Legislators and Stakeholders of St. Vincent's Hospital:

We the undersigned constituents, public health advocates, and concerned citizens ask that you actively and expeditiously seek out alternatives to the closure of St. Vincent's Hospital.  The loss of St. Vincent's Hospital, the only hospital below 59th Street on the West Side, would have a tremendous impact on the healthcare access of residents of the Lower West Side of Manhattan, and its repercussions would be felt throughout the City's already overburdened healthcare system. For childbearing women, their families, and the childbirth professionals of our community, the loss of St. Vincent's would be a particularly devastating blow for the many reasons cited below.
First, most New York City labor and delivery units are already operating at or above capacity. With the closure of St. Vincent's, these already overburdened units would be forced to collectively absorb an additional 1800 births per year. This is a serious public health concern with overcrowding leading to substandard care for all women.
Second, in addition to overburdening its neighbors, the closure of St.Vincent's would mean that New York City families would be losing the only hospital in the city that is actively striving to provide truly Mother-Friendly,* evidence-based care. In the last year, major steps that have been taken toward this goal include:
Lowering the C-Section Rate
While hospitals across the city and indeed the country have continued an alarming trend of increasing caesarean rates, St. Vincent's has actively been working to reduce the number of surgical births. Indeed, it has shown a marked statistical reduction dropping from 30% in 2007 to 26% in 2009 despite maintaining its significant percentage of high-risk pregnancies and older first-time mothers.

Unhurried Birth
At St Vincent's women are supported to labor at their own pace, follow their body's cues, move, walk, change positions, use hydrotherapy and other non-pharmaceutical pain relief methods - all done while maintaining appropriate fetal monitoring.

Family centered care
Unlike every other hospital in New York City, St. Vincent's has a long history of never separating mother and baby unless medically necessary.  This policy encourages bonding between parent and child and often leads to higher breastfeeding rates.  In addition, a woman is allowed uninterrupted access to her partner and Doula or other labor support person as well as being in close proximity to her family.

VBAC Policy
While other hospitals are limiting access to vaginal birth after cesarean section (VBAC) (approximately 30% of hospitals nationwide are banning VBAC) St. Vincent's has a written policy supporting a woman's right to choose this option and has a respectable 68% and rising VBAC success rate.

Midwifery Model of Care
St. Vincent's accommodates midwives in their approach of individualized, women-centered care that acknowledges the fact that labor and birth are normal life processes.  St. Vincent's has become the home for many staff and private practice midwives and midwife attended births grew from 11.7% in 2007 to 19.7% in 2009.
Home Birth transfers
St. Vincent's acknowledges a woman's right to choose out of hospital birth.  When her care requires a hospital, St. Vincent's accepts the transfer from the home to the hospital providing continuity of care and is respectful of both the family and the midwife.
Neonatal Care
The level III NICU not only has outcome data second to none in NYC, but provides critical overflow capacity for other hospitals when their NICUs become too crowded.  

Perinatal Hospice-like Care
St. Vincent's is the only NYC hospital willing to respect and support couples who have chosen to continue pregnancy despite serious or even lethal congenital fetal abnormalities.  Many women come from the far reaches of the city and beyond seeking support for their decision not to have an abortion.  

All of these factors distinguish St. Vincent's from other New York City hospitals where women have extremely limited access to birthing options. Over the last year St Vincent's has established itself as the place to go for families choosing natural birth or who simply wish to avoid unnecessary obstetrical interventions.  There is clear demand for the type of Mother-Friendly care St. Vincent's strives to provide, as demonstrated by a 15% increase in births from 2008 to 2009.

St. Vincent's is a critical asset to the birth community. We need your help!

*Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative (MFCI):  Created by the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS), the MFCI and those who endorse it hold that birth is a normal, physiological process, trust in the ability of a women's body to give birth, and are committed to endorsing and/or providing evidence-based maternity care.
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