St. Vincents hospital was the most homebirth-midwife friendly hospital in Manhattan, and quite possibly in New York City, period. It was certainly the only hospital in Manhattan which accommodated homebirth and homebirth midwives. My own midwife delivered her patients there, and she would often comment to me about what a lovely set-up they had at St. Vincents: an obstetric director who was supportive of midwifery care, a nursing staff that was cooperative and respectful of women who chose to give homebirth, and supportive back-up physician care. With the tragic closing of St. Vincents hospital last week, pregnant women and the homebirth midwives who provided them with care are now scrambling to find another back-up hospital to cover them, which is no easy feat. While I don’t know all of the details involved, at the very least this requires signing new Written Practice Agreements with a collaborating physician at another hospital, and midwife-friendly physicians who are willing to back-up homebirth are few and far between, unfortunately. If these agreements are not in place, delivering with a qualified midwife at home is technically illegal.
Attempts to draft an 11th hour Written Practice Agreement between homebirth midwives and the Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC for short–basically, the City’s public hospitals, which includes the hospital where I currently work) sadly fell through, although the latest update from Choices in Childbirth did add that HHC is still considering options. Nevertheless, at the moment the crisis is unresolved, and this leaves women planning homebirth with no back-up options at this time.
What can we do about it? First things first: SIGN THE PETITION in support of the Midwifery Modernization Act, which seeks to amend the Midwifery Practice Act in New York State so that having a written practice agreement in place with a collaborating physician is no longer required. After that, you can continue to flood the Department of Health and Board of Education by making the following calls:
- Wendy Saunders, Executive Deputy Commissioner for the NY State Department of Health, appointed by Governor Paterson. 518-474-8390
- Larry Mokhiber, the Secretary of the Board of Midwifery (518-474-3817, extension 130)