Facilities like the North Shore Birth Center are essential to help address maternal mortality and morbidity in low-income communities and for women of color.
Washington (July 13, 2022) – Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Tom Sands, President of Beverly Hospital, urging him to delay the planned closure of the North Shore Birth Center and to carefully consider alternative options. The lawmakers have asked for a response by August 11, 2022.
Since its opening in 1980, the North Shore Birth Center has provided women in Eastern Massachusetts with a critical alternative to hospital-based labor and delivery services. The midwives at the Center have helped deliver nearly 10,000 babies and continued to help deliver babies throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the risks to their health as frontline workers.
Advocates claim that Beverly Hospital has been starving the facility of resources for years, which has contributed to a decline in staffing. The Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), which represents nurses and midwives at the Hospital and Birth Center, negotiated a new contract with the Hospital in May of this year that included raises up to 27% for Birth Center midwives, with the goal of recruiting and retaining staff.
Beverly Hospital assured the MNA during negotiations that it would not close the Birth Center; yet, eight days after the union approved the contract, the Hospital announced it would close the Birth Center anyway, citing the staffing shortages the new contract was supposed to address.
“Beverly Hospital’s decision to close the Birth Center almost immediately after reaching a contractual agreement to increase wages for the nurses and midwives that work there casts doubt on whether leadership ever intended to effectuate the negotiated wage increases,” wrote the lawmakers.
The Birth Center is an essential resource for North Shore communities, including women of color who face a disproportionate risk of maternal mortality and morbidity. Black women in the United States are three times as likely and Indigenous women are 2.3 times as likely as white women to die from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes.
“At its core, closing the North Shore Birth Center will deny women a choice in birth options and reproductive care, pushing patients away from more affordable, high-quality care into more expensive, hospital-based care,” concluded the lawmakers.