Greenville birth center to stop delivering babies, much to the dismay of Upstate moms
Births being shifted to hospital
Having her baby at a birthing center was everything that Nikki Wall dreamed it would be.
The surroundings were beautiful, the atmosphere was homey and personal, and baby Emersyn arrived in a soothing, relaxed environment.
“I had a great experience,” she said. “My birth went well and there were no problems at all. And I want to do that again.”
But this week, the Greenville Midwifery Care and Birth Center where Wall’s baby girl was born announced on Facebook that it will soon stop delivering babies and transition all births back to Greenville Memorial Hospital.
“Please know this is purely a financial decision with some circumstances out of our control. It is not a result of poor quality or poor outcomes,” the original post read. “To all of our families we have had the pleasure of serving in our birth center, thank you for allowing us the opportunity. This isn’t the end for us!!”
The post prompted hundreds of reactions from disappointed women and dozens of comments on Facebook.
“I am so sad to hear this!” said one woman, echoing the feelings of many. “We had a wonderful experience here and I’m disappointed we won’t be able to have future babies here.”
“What an absolute shame!” said another, who delivered the last of her three babies at the center.
“My birth center birth by far was the best birth experience of the 3,” she said. “When in the hospital with my first 2 I couldn't wait to leave bc of how invasive it was. With my third it was such a beautiful, relaxing experience & when we were discharged we weren't ready to leave lol.”
“Definitely a step in the wrong direction for birth rights in Greenville,” said yet another.
Many of the women on Facebook speculated that closure of the center, which is owned by Prisma Health-Upstate, formerly Greenville Health System, is being done because in-hospital births are more lucrative.
Kate Bauer, executive director of the American Association of Birth Centers, said that on average, a normal vaginal birth is 30 percent to 50 percent less expensive at a birth center than in the hospital.
But Dr. Kacey Eichelberger, vice chair of academics with the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Prisma, said in a statement that the move is being made because of “payer reimbursement limitations.”
“We’re proud to have offered this type of birth at our birth center for four years,” she said. “We have advocated diligently during this time for payment reform to allow us to continue to offer this important service.
Both private insurers and Medicaid reimburse birth center births at a lower rate than hospital births, she said. And while the hospital has advocated for higher reimbursement, the amounts haven't increased to the level needed to sustain the center, she said.
“Unfortunately, current reimbursement models are such that we can no longer offer this option,” she added. “We are disappointed that payers do not recognize the benefits of a birth center, and we will continue to advocate for low-intervention births as safe, personal, holistic options for women.”
Eichelberger said the transition will be completed by this summer.
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"We understand that this is a change for patients who were planning on a birth center delivery," she said. "A patient’s comfort and trust in her birth plan is our top priority for all of our prenatal patients, and we are working to ensure that each patient’s individual birth plan remains consistent through this transition."
Prenatal education as well as prenatal and gynecology appointments will still be available at Greenville Midwifery Care, Eichelberger said.
And Prisma midwives will still be able to care for women during pregnancy and childbirth, she said, while patients will still be able to choose the type of low-intervention birth that is right for them, including water birth and unmedicated birth, she said.
'A huge loss'
Christina Szrama, a Greenville doula who has helped countless women have their babies at the center, called the closing a huge loss for the birth community.
“A lot of women are taking it hard,” she said. “I have several clients who have had appointments there in the past couple of weeks and ... and likely aren’t going to be able to deliver there."
Wall, 36 is about to give birth to her second child, this one a boy. Since she’s so close to delivery, she’s relieved that she'll be able to have him at the birth center.
Like many women, she said she chose an out-of-hospital setting because she prefers a more natural approach to childbirth. At the center, it's just her, her husband, Kyle, the midwife and the doula, she said.
In addition, birth centers have fewer interventions, lower C section rates and better outcomes, she said, and moms, who typically have low-risk pregnancies, can go home with their babies in a few hours.
“In the hospital, it’s treated like a medical procedure,” she said. “But I’m pregnant. I’m not sick.”
While some women said there are other midwifery birthing options in the area, Wall said her insurance covers the Greenville Midwifery center and might not cover the others.
Nonetheless, if she becomes pregnant again, she said she would consider a home birth or another birth center.
“I feel that strongly about it because it was such a good experience not being in the hospital,” she said. “Going to the hospital for me is a much more stressful environment. I would really have to find other options.”