North Charleston natural birth center may be forced to close - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

North Charleston natural birth center may be forced to close

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NORTH CHARLESTON, SC -

A natural birth center in Charleston may be forced to close its doors after they say the Department of Environmental Health and Control is reinterpreting one of its regulations .

The regulation under question is state Regulation 61-102, Sec. D.6.a.1 which states, "A physician must be on call and available to provide medical assistance at he birthing center at all times that it is serving the public."

Lesley Rathbun, director and owner of the Charleston Birth Place, said DHEC has never enforced the regulation in that way.

"They've been interpreting it to mean the physician is available over the phone for almost 20 years now," Rathbun said.

Now, Rathbun said, DHEC is forcing her center to have the on-call physician come to the center to diagnose the problem before sending the mother to the hospital.

Natural birthing centers, like the one in North Charleston, staff midwives to assist with childbirth. The center is not equipped to administer Anesthesia or perform Cesarean sections. The DHEC standards are in place to protect a mother and her unborn child if an emergency does arise.

According to an official from DHEC, the state organization started taking a harder look at natural birth centers after a mother suffered a miscarriage. The mother was under the care of a midwife at a Fort Mill birthing center but was transferred to a hospital once complications arose.

Only 15 percent of mothers who are in labor at her birth center have to be transferred to the hospital. Many of those, Rathbun said, are for non-emergencies such as long labor. True emergency transfers make up less than 1 percent of trips to the hospital, according to Rathbun.

Despite those low numbers, DHEC did send a letter to the center saying they have 15 days to come up with an action plan to follow the regulations, or it will be forced to close.

Since word started spreading throughout the Lowcountry about the possible closing, Rathbun said many women have come forward to support natural birth

"There's been a really big response from women because it's a woman's choice as to where she gives birth and with whom," Rathbun said. "That's a basic, civil and reproductive right for women."

Alison Inglis is one of those new mothers who had her first child at the center. When interviewed by News 2, the newborn boy was less than an hour old.

Inglis said the new interpretation of making the doctor come to the center prior to sending the mother to the hospital could be detrimental to the health of the mother and her child.

"Why would you waste time rather than going to a place or a facility, like a hospital, immediately when the healthcare professional in charge, a midwife, deems that necessary," Inglis said.

A spokesperson for the center said that the center is planning to sue DHEC. Details of that lawsuit have yet to be revealed.

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