Nurse Midwives Speak Out Against Closing of Birthing Center in Rhode Island

In late February, Pawtucket-based Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island announced that it would be forced to close its birthing center and lay off staff nurses due to financial troubles. The pending shutdown has created concern among Rhode Island’s Certified Nurse Midwives, who are actively speaking out against the closure and fighting to ensure women have adequate childbirth options in the state.

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In a statement, Dennis D. Keefe, president and CEO of Care New England, Memorial Hospital’s parent company, said various healthcare changes that have stemmed from the Affordable Care Act are “forcing facilities and systems to redefine themselves to be more streamlined and responsive to the needs of the people we serve.” Keefe cited a 200-bed surplus as an example of Memorial Hospital’s inability to sustain all current departments.

Memorial Hospital president, Michael Dacey, MD, said he hopes the hospital’s obstetric unit will move to two other Rhode Island facilities under the Care New England banner. On March 2nd, the hospital submitted a Reverse Certificate of Need Application to the Rhode Island Department of Health to request the changes.

Nurse midwives, however, have publicly disagreed with the potential switch, citing the birthing center’s standing in the community and expressing concerns over such a sudden shift in the location of obstetrics services.

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Certified nurse midwife Michelle Palmer – a member of the home birth midwifery service RI Home Birth and Family Health, which practices out of Memorial Hospital – voiced concern about one of the potential new facilities on Rhode Island Public Radio, asking the following:

“Can this one facility really meet all the different needs, not just the clinical needs of women, but all of the different needs of women who are seeking care?”

The Rhode Department of Public Health has ordered Memorial Hospital to continue all current services until a decision is finalized on the medical facility’s Reverse Certificate of Need Application.