By Nan Strauss, Former Amnesty International USA Researcher
With just three days notice, the North Central Bronx Hospital (NCBH)’s Labor and Delivery service was shuttered after thirty-six years providing quality maternity care to 1500 women and babies a year. The award-winning midwife-led program at NCBH was regarded as a national model for its innovative and compassionate care practices, meeting the needs of at-risk women in an under-served community.
Eliminating NCBH’s successful program will reduce the quality of care and options available in this under-served community. The woman-centered, midwifery model of care practiced at NCHB is especially effective in addressing the health disparities faced by women of color and low-income women, but will no longer be an option in the area.
The closure will make it more difficult for low-income women to access care, increasing travel time and costs, and will end community-based care in the area. Surrounding hospitals that will be forced to absorb the additional 1500 births each year are already stretched thin.
All women have the right to safe, quality, respectful maternity care, but too often this right is not being realized even in the United States, where we spend more money on maternity care than any other country in the world. Currently, the U.S. has a higher maternal mortality ratio than 45 other countries – reflecting the numerous barriers that women here face to accessing quality care.
[pullquote text=”Currently, the U.S. has a higher maternal mortality ratio than 45 other countries – reflecting the numerous barriers that women here face to accessing quality care.”]The problems are even more dire for women of color and low-income women, who face the most limited access, the fewest options, and the worst health outcomes. The Bronx has the highest rate of pregnancy related deaths of any borough in New York City, more than double the rate of Manhattan.
The closure of NCBH’s labor and delivery service reflects a larger trend of hospital closures and a dramatic reduction of options for women in low-income communities. Between 1995 and 2003, 14 hospitals in New York State stopped providing maternity care services and between 2003 and 2011, at least five additional hospitals or birth centers in and around New York City closed their doors.
The Bellevue Birth Center, the only birth center in the city’s public hospital system was shut down in 2009. It had served low-income and mostly Chinese- or Spanish-speaking immigrant women, but now sits empty, despite the facility’s data demonstrating excellent outcomes.
All women, babies and families have a fundamental human right to healthy, safe and respectful maternity care.
Tell the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and the New York State Department of Health that this closure is an outrage! Eliminating a thriving program and leaving thousands of low-income families without easy and safe access to quality care is not the answer.
Add AIUSA’s voice to those calling for a re-opening of the labor and delivery services at North Central Bronx Hospital!
Nirav R. Shah, MD, MPH, Commissioner, New York State Department of Health
Corning Tower, Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12237
Alan D. Aviles, President, New York City Health & Hospitals Corporation
125 Worth Street, Room 514, New York, New York 10013
The closure of the labor and delivery (L&D) services at North Central Bronx Hospital is an outrage! Eliminating a thriving program and leaving thousands of low-income families without easy and safe access to quality care is not the answer.
As a concerned citizen, I call on the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health and the Health and Hospitals Corporation to do the right thing and reopen L & D services at North Central Bronx Hospital!