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St. Vincent's Hospital Shutdown Leaves Expectant Moms Without Home-Birth Option

By DNAinfo Staff on April 30, 2010 8:01pm  | Updated on April 30, 2010 10:12pm

By Nicole Breskin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

CITY HALL — The closure of St. Vincent’s Hospital this week left hundreds of expectant mothers without the option of giving birth at home under the supervision of a midwife affiliated with the hospital.

Hours after the 160-year-old hospital shut its doors, city officials terminated a state-mandated agreement that had legalized the work of St. Vincent's midwives.

“I feel like I’ve had a rug pulled out from under me, but it’s much worse than that,” expectant mother Jessica Peskay told DNAinfo. She said she had opted for a midwife-assisted home birth on May 23.

“I had a vision of how I wanted to have my child — at home where it would be less stressful and more conducive to a peaceful recovery," she said sadly. "I don’t know what I am going to do now.”

On Friday, a group of elected officials, midwives affiliated with St. Vincent’s and expectant mothers met with representatives from the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation at 125 Worth St. in the hopes that the city might provide a solution.

“The collateral damage of the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital is simply enormous,” said Borough President Scott Stringer, who was flanked by a crowd of pregnant women at a media conference after the meeting. “The situation today means we now have to turn to the city for help.”

Stringer said he is hopeful that the Health and Hospitals Corporation, which owns several hospitals around the city, will agree to continue the midwife program — at least on a short-term basis.    

One midwife, Kristen Leonard, who said she had developed strong relationships with the expectant mothers she has helped over the years and their families, told DNAinfo: “This jeopardizes my livelihood and everything I believe in. It breaks my heart."

Chelsea resident Katalin Lovasz, who is eight months pregnant, said she felt endangered by the shutdown of the hospital and and the elimination of the home-birth option.

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to find a doctor who will deliver my baby at the 11th hour of my pregnancy,” she said. “I’m devastated that I might just have to go to an emergency room, after I worked so hard to plan in advance.”

Senator Tom Duane and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried called for state reform on policies that would encourage more hospitals to support such services. They are also sponsoring legislation that would eliminate the requirement that midwives need a formal agreement to practice.

“What needs to happen is that New York public or private hospitals step in and accept midwives through agreements,”  Gottfried said. “But they strongly oppose it. They would argue it’s a matter of patient safety, but I would argue it’s more to do with an interest in not promoting competition.”

A spokesperson for the Health and Hospitals Corporation had no immediate comment.

Representatives of the New York State Association of Licensed Midwives said they have already approached three hospitals about forming partnerships, but all of them declined.

The organization had estimated that 620 women would have home births in New York City in 2010.