By Joy Bergmann
During an internal meeting last week, leaders of the OB/GYN team at Mount Sinai West hospital announced the January closure of its pioneering Birthing Center, opened in 1996 as the first hospital-based birthing center in New York City. The hospital is on 10th Avenue between 58th and 59th Street and was formerly called Roosevelt Hospital.
Parents, grandparents, midwives and other advocates for the home-like, childbirth facility – intended for women with low-risk pregnancies who seek a more relaxed environment to give birth without epidural anesthesia – have vowed to pressure Mount Sinai executives to reconsider this decision.
A group calling itself Save The Birthing Center has started an online petition seeking 2,500 signatures, saying, “If it closes there will only be one in-hospital birthing center in all of New York City. NYC families deserve autonomy and choice when deciding where to give birth. Help save the MSW Birthing Center!”
Asked about the impending closure, Mount Sinai emailed the following statement to WSR:
“In order to make the critically necessary expansions of our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) along with enhancing the services of our Labor and Delivery Unit, we have had to reevaluate the use of space within our obstetrics footprint. The newly configured Labor and Delivery area and NICU expansion will allow us to provide improved patient safety, comfort and delivery of care to all mothers and infants, especially those who require extra care.
Mount Sinai is committed to providing patient-centered care for all expectant mothers and supporting each mother’s unique childbirth experience. We respect a woman’s birthing choice and will continue to offer the option of a childbirth experience that includes low medical intervention, accessibility to midwives, and one that ensures the health and well-being of both mother and baby.
While the Birthing Center at Mount Sinai West will no longer exist in its current capacity after December 2018, we believe the concept of a natural, low-intervention delivery is not bound within four walls and choice of a natural childbirth experience will continue to be available to all expectant mothers who deliver at Mount Sinai West. We remain committed to our mission of providing compassionate, personalized care for all expectant mothers.”
Risa Klein, Certified Nurse Midwife, says she was present at the grand rounds meeting last Tuesday when officials made the announcement. “There had been rumors of changes coming, but you never expect it.”
Klein says the hospital is very supportive of midwives and new mothers – even the traditional Labor & Delivery rooms have tubs – but that the Birthing Center is something special and worth protecting. “The real downside loss would be the loss of that in-house community people look to,” she said. “The Birthing Center is like being at home, but with the safety net of first-class medical facilities being just one floor away in the unlikely event of something challenging happening to the baby or mother. It’s a real comfort and would be a loss for the community.”
The importance of choice is a consistent refrain among those who’ve already signed the petition.
“NYC desperately needs low-risk birthing options within a hospital setting,” wrote Vanessa Cariddi.
“Without birthing centers, women have only two choices: medicalized hospital births or home births.”
“All mothers deserve the right to choose a birthing center,” added Alex Passas.
And Karie Brown wrote, “I gave birth there – a glorious experience – and it breaks my heart to know that Mt. Sinai wants to take that experience away from others.”