Protect pregnant women’s and newborns’ access to emergency care

Protect pregnant women’s and newborns’ access to emergency care

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ALEXANDRA LUNDAHL started this petition to South Carolina DHEC and

The South Carolina state legislature must protect pregnant women, mothers and newborn babies by passing the Equal Access to Hospital Doors Bill H-4966, officially called the Perinatal Integration Act of 2020. A similar bill in the senate is also pending. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control also must not pass retaliatory regulations to further restrict midwives.

In 2014, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) wrote a regulation that specifically omitted patients of midwives and specifically outborn babies (babies who are not born in a hospital) from being able to automatically transfer care to a higher resource facility in an emergency. The regulation painstakingly lists every perinatal care facility type in the state, including prison infirmaries, except for Licensed Midwives and birth centers. Therefore, in an emergency, midwife and birth center patients may be refused smooth transfers into higher resource facilities in an emergency, which could create life or death situations for mother and/or baby. Instead, these patients are sometimes referred to an emergency room and lose precious time while waiting for their turn and for the slower process of admittance to take place.

It is unlikely this is a simple oversight because there is an easy fix. All DHEC must do is agree to add in “licensed midwives and outborn babies” to the language, and all of these mothers and babies would suddenly be protected as well. DHEC has refused. Two years ago, the Palmetto Association of Licensed Midwives and the Midwifery Advisory Committee (whose job it is to advise DHEC) approached DHEC and also wrote a statement in favor of the change. Instead, DHEC went to the OB task force, which also agreed with MAC, yet DHEC continued to do nothing to change this except to say it was looking for stakeholders and would then talk to the Hospital Association. Two years later, nothing has changed.

DHEC could also offer a quick and temporary solution to the problem by providing a provider-wide exception, position statement or memo. However, DHEC is also unwilling to do this. As recently as January 2020, MAC asked DHEC to provide this temporary solution, but DHEC stated that they have no plans to make such a resolution, according to representatives who were present at that meeting. They stated that the Licensed Midwife regulation is now scheduled for revisions, but they have no current plans to revise regulations 61-16, which is the regulation regarding perinatal levels of care. The midwifery groups have asked DHEC numerous times why they instated and maintained this omission, but no reason has ever been given.

Therefore, in order to protect these mothers and babies who choose the safe and attentive care of licensed midwives in the state of South Carolina, the House of Representatives has introduced the Equal Access to Hospital Doors bill. As of March 1 2020, that bill had 15 co-sponsors already, and a mirrored senate bill was pending.

On February 26 2020, in what appears to be retaliation to the pending legislation, DHEC formally announced that it was opening midwife regulations. The midwives believe this is not to fix the omission because historically DHEC has done this specifically to further limit and restrict midwives’ freedoms. The public comment period for the Notice of Drafting for this new Regulation 61-24 runs through Monday, March 30. Public comments regarding this regulation can be submitted via email to healthregcomm@dhec.sc.gov or by completing an online public comment form. A stakeholder meeting for the DHEC regulations on Tuesday, March 17, 2020 at 10 a.m. in the DHEC Columbia Mills Building, conference room 2407. A conference line to join the meeting is at 800-753-1965, access code 6671491. Even though they opened the regulations, DHEC would not tell the South Carolina midwives why they want to update them. In the past, DHEC has tried to put in supervisory language, meaning licensed midwives would have to have a supervising physician and agreements with the hospitals.

Why do I care? I personally had an incredible home birth with a licensed midwife on Feb. 26, 2019 -- exactly one year to the day before DHEC decided to open midwife regulations for potentially more restrictions. It was the most amazing, beautiful, empowering and loving experience of my life, and I strongly believe that anyone should have access to this experience if they so desire and they meet the safety parameters to have a home birth or to work with a licensed midwife. My highly trained and experienced midwife ensured my baby and I were safe at all times. At one point in labor, she was concerned I may not be dilating appropriately due to scar tissue, so she kept careful watch on the situation. Fortunately, right after she discovered the potential problem, I quickly fully dilated and birthed a healthy baby girl just an hour and a half later. However, if my cervix continued to be "stuck" due to scar tissue, I would have had to transfer to the hospital. It would have been crucial for me to have a smooth transition to a higher resource facility and NOT be stuck waiting in an emergency room. My midwife did her job perfectly, but DHEC's prejudice against midwives, birth centers and their patients could have led to a life or death situation, had my body not cooperated that day. 

Please sign this petition to urge DHEC to drop any additional restrictive regulations, fix the omission of midwives in equal access to hospital transfers, and for state legislators to sponsor and sign this bill so that no matter what kind of maternal and perinatal care a woman chooses, ALL mothers and babies are protected, even in an emergency.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 7,500!
At 7,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get a reaction from the decision maker!