Proposal seeks to allow free-standing birth centers as alternative to hospitals

Push for maternal healthcare expansion bill
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 5:36 AM EDT|Updated: Mar. 13, 2023 at 7:54 PM EDT
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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - Connecticut’s governor and advocates unveiled a proposal to expand maternal healthcare by allowing free-standing birth centers over hospitals.

Gov. Ned Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and others were at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford at 10 a.m. on Monday:

A public hearing was scheduled to follow.

The bill would allow free-standing birth centers to operate in Connecticut as an alternative to traditional hospitals.

Connecticut currently has one birth center across from Danbury Hospital.

Lamont said he specifically proposed the legislation in response to several pending requests submitted by hospitals to close their labor and delivery facilities.

He said that overall, pregnancy-associated deaths have consistently increased from 2018 to 2020 among all races and age groups. The situation was even more dire among Black populations, which consistently saw higher rates of maternal mortality at national and state levels. Between 2015 and 2017, persons of color made up 44.9 percent of those giving birth and 63.6 percent of pregnancy-related deaths.

“Like many states across the nation, recent trends with health providers are creating gaps in access to maternal care that are worsening disparities,” Lamont said. “This proposal seeks to reverse this trend by allowing birth centers to open and operate independently of hospitals, creating an alternative that makes accessing this essential care easier and more convenient. It is a moral imperative that we take actions to ensure safe pregnancies, no matter a family’s background.”

The governor said the statistics could be attributed to lack of equitable access to health care resources, including providers.

The push for expanded maternal healthcare also followed the release of a new report that showed more than 80 percent of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States were preventable.

Advocates said the data, collected by maternal morality review committees from 2017 to 2019, zeroed in on a few underlying causes of pregnancy-related deaths.

The causes included mental health conditions, excessive bleeding, and cardiac conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the report highlighted a need for healthcare professionals and the general public to become more educated and aware of pregnancy-related complications.

Lamont also expressed concerns with the overwhelming cost that comes with maternal healthcare, and added that preventable care needed to become more affordable.

“The birth center model of care emphasizes personal attention and familiarity, including longer prenatal visits and continuous support from a midwife through labor,” said Connecticut Department of Public Health commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD. “Many also provide home visits and breast-feeding counseling in the postpartum period. They are truly there when mothers need them.”

However, the Connecticut Hospital Association has concerns with the birthing centers saying that the bill “does not require that the state create regulations as other states have for birthing centers and we believe that a regulatory step is vital to protecting patients and delivering the quality care patients need.”

Connecticut’s governor planned a news conference on Monday morning to discuss a proposal to expand maternal healthcare.
The push for expanded maternal healthcare follows the release of a disturbing new report.