Friday, February 14, 2014

Help Keep a CNM in North Alabama!

by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC
Athens Limestone Hospital has the only CNM in North Alabama.
Nineteen years ago I lived in Madison when I got pregnant with my third child. I had enjoyed a wonderful birth with a Certified Nurse Midwife CNM at a hospital in Tallahassee, FL just 3 years earlier, and I hoped to repeat that experience. I knew I wasn't comfortable with a home birth, and I honestly didn't want an Ob/Gyn. As I did my research I discovered that Dr. Gross in Athens actually had recently hired Roberta Ress, CNM. So I headed right over there to check things out. This was back before they renovated the  hospital to add on beautiful birthing rooms. I would end up giving birth in a sterile delivery room. Then I would be moved to an equally sterile (ugly might be a better word) hospital room. Nothing homey about it! But I chose that option over the beautiful new birthing rooms at Huntsville Hospital or the lovely suites at Humana Hospital for one reason: I wanted a hospital birth with a midwife.

Roberta Is Retiring

Fast forward nearly 20 years, and Roberta is at the point in her life where she's ready to retire. Her
Roberta Ress is the only CNM practicing in North Alabama.
kids live in various places; her husband is retired, and she is ready to enjoy the coming years with her family. I'm so happy for her! I have enjoyed her friendship over these last 20 years first as my midwife, and later as a wonderful resource person for other mothers. She should be able to approach her retirement with excitement and anticipation. Instead, as June 1 draws closer, Roberta has a heavy heart, knowing that Athens Limestone Hospital does not plan to replace her.

No More CNM's in North Alabama

Huntsville Hospital has a stipulation written into its bylaws stating that a doctor must be present for midwife deliveries. This is fairly unusual, given that even by Medicaid standards it is not necessary for a physician to be present. Several years ago, Athens Limestone Hospital became part of the Huntsville Hospital network. In 2011 the board that governs Athens Limestone quietly slipped a similar stipulation into their bylaws. Roberta was grandfathered in, but this means that upon her retirement, another midwife won't be able to take her place.  She notes, "I've already had patients transfer away because they're due after June 1. If Athens wants to keep them, they need to hire another midwife."

You Can Help

There is still a ray of hope. On Tuesday, March 11, the hospital board will meet to discuss the
situation. Roberta's goal is to have this stipulation removed. "I have fought this fight for 20 years to try to get moms to come to the hospital, not to be afraid of us, not to have your baby at home," says Ress. "I don't care who they hire; I just want to make sure the option is there. They think we have enough care providers here, but our female care provider has MD behind her name. It truly grieves me that this is going to be the end of an option for these women. But I will continue to fight to keep this option open." 
There are several action steps you can take:
  1. Join the Facebook Group that is dedicated to getting more midwives in local hospitals
  2. Write the CEO of Athens Limestone Hospital Kelli Powers asking her to make sure that Athens Limestone continues to offer this outstanding service for mothers and babies. Please cc Roberta Ress with any email you send.
  3. Write the CEO's of other North Alabama hospitals expressing your desire to see CNM's providing services there. Huntsville Hospital: David Spillers; Madison Hospital: Mary Lynn Wright; Crestwood Medical Center: Dr. Pam Hudson; Helen Keller Hospital: Doug Arnold; Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital: Russell Pigg
  4. Call each hospital to ask if they will be offering the services of a CNM in the near future, and let them know that is an important factor for you in your choice of a place to give birth. 
(256) 386-4196 is the number for Helen Keller Hospital
(256) 768-9191 is the number for ECM Hospital
(256) 341-2000 is the number for Decatur General Hospital
(256) 265-2012 is the number for Madison Hospital
(256) 233-9292 is Athens Limestone Hospital
(256) 265-1000 is Huntsville Hospital

Remember that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, so be sure that any communication you have is positive. The fact is that offering the services of a CNM will only serve to increase their patient load AND their profitability. So let's get busy and help them do just that!

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