Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center (TLRMC) has publicly opposed an application to establish Kentucky’s first alternative birthing center in Elizabethtown.
After learning of the application, TLRMC and a number of its physicians sent letters lining out their concerns to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Office of Health Policy in Frankfort.
Director of Planning and Marketing at TLRMC, Bill Oldham said Hardin Memorial Hospital (in Elizabethtown) and Flaget Memorial Hospital (in Bardstown) have also sent letters of concern to the Cabinet.
A resident of Elizabethtown and Certified Nurse Midwife with 32 years of experience, Mary Carol Akers said she applied for the certificate of need for the birthing center to provide Kentucky women easier access to quality birthing services at a lower cost.
“Childbirth is the major reason people are admitted into the hospital, and it’s unnecessary,” Akers said. “Most women can give birth without any problems.”
In a press release from TLRMC, hospital CEO Wayne Meriwether said the primary cause for concern about the birthing center is patient safety.
“Obstetrical deliveries can begin routinely and suddenly escalate to the need for emergency procedures, which cannot be adequately addressed in the proposed birthing center,” he said.
Oldham agreed. “The biggest thing is that a hospital such as Twin Lakes has full capacity to handle all possible problems that might arise with the mother or baby,” Oldham said. “We have the back-up to handle the unexpected, which the birthing center would not have.”
Akers said she understands that problems can arise in childbirth and in such occasions, would contact a physician for assistance. However, she said that these circumstances are rare.
Meriwether also explained that a local birthing center would be unnecessary given the number of obstetricians already employed by TLRMC.
“We have three obstetricians who averaged approximately 370 births annually over the past five years,” Meriwether said. “We have the capacity to perform even more deliveries in the future, so we do not see the need to offer a service that would require women giving birth to have to travel when a high level of care is already close to home.”
In addition, Meriwether said that patients who seek such a service from another provider may prevent TLRMC from providing that service in the future.
Akers disagreed. “A birthing center wouldn’t take away from the hospitals,” she said. “It would financially benefit them by drawing women from all over the region to our area.”
Grayson County’s current obstetricians—Sam Buck, M.D., Wendy Lee, D.O., and Mark Lee, D.O—expressed similar concerns in a joint statement in the TLRMC press release that reads, “Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center’s labor, delivery and recovery rooms offer a home-like atmosphere and the staff provides highly individualized care using a mother-baby care model. In our opinion, there is no need for a birthing center in our community; it would do nothing to increase access or enhance quality.”
In contrast, Akers said, “We would allow women to eat or drink during labor. Also, with doctors and patients, there is a power differential. Midwives/Nurses get to know their patients well, and we work side by side.”
The Cabinet held a hearing for February 20 and 21 to review the certificate of need and the letters of concern and determine whether there is sufficient need for a birthing center. However, Akers said no decision has yet been made, and further testimony will be given on March 13.