Lowcountry natural birth center under threat


NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)– Charleston Birth Place opened in 2008. The accredited center is pushing for new legislation to keep their current practices under compliance with DHEC regulations to maintain their licence.

In 2013, the Department of Health and Environmental Control changed the interpretation of a long standing law that states, a physician must be on call and available to provide medical assistance at the birthing centers at all times.

For years state regulators allowed a physician available by phone to count as being on call.

In 2013, they changed their interpretation to require a birth center to have physician physically on call in case of emergency.

Lesley Rathbun is the director and owner of Charleston Birth Place. She says they currently have relationships with doctors who can meet them at the hospital if their care is needed.

New regulations would require a doctor to visit the birth center when an emergency takes place in order to decide if the mother and child need to be taken to the hospital.

Rathbun says that mandate is unpractical and unrealistic.

“We need to be able to transfer moms and babies quickly and efficiently and we need to do it before an emergency,” said Rathbun.

She says waiting for a physician to arrive at the birth center wastes time.

“In a true emergency which is actually very rare, we need the doctors to meet us at the hospital not to come here first,” says Rathbun.

Three years ago there was a proviso put in place to continue allowing physicians to consult by phone in times of emergency. The proviso has been reinstated each year since.

Earlier this week the proviso was deleted by state regulators.

The current proviso runs out the first of June.

Rathbun is hoping legislatures pass a comprehensive bill to replace outdated laws before the proviso runs out.

If the bill is not passed in time, DHEC could deem the Charleston Birth Place no compliant with their standards.

Mothers say they are worried he center will have to shut down leaving them with less options on how they chose to birth their children.

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