Birth centers trying to avoid closure following DHEC regulation

Published: Nov. 25, 2013 at 2:51 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 25, 2013 at 3:41 PM EST
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NORTH CHARLESTON (WCSC) - The owner of a natural birth center in North Charleston is worried for the safety of her patients if there's an emergency.

"I'm exhausted, I've had little to no sleep in days," said Lesley Rathbun, owner of the Charleston Birth Place in North Charleston.

The center just had a week with a record number of baby deliveries. Now, Rathbun says she's dealing with the news that she may have to shutdown.

"We have 15 calendar days. We are required to submit a plan of correction which we don't have anything to correct. We're not doing anything wrong," said Rathbun.

Rathbun says the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is changing the way they are enforcing a regulation.

It once required a doctor to be on call providing medical help in the event of an emergency with a birth. In the past, the doctor wasn't required to actually come to the building, but that's no longer the case according to Rathbun.

"If we had a mother here in labor and she had a complication or a problem. They're saying that the physician has to come here to consult before we take the mother to the hospital," said Rathbun.

Catherine Templeton, director of the South Carolina Health and Environmental Control said, "We are protecting both the unborn and their mothers while also enforcing the law. We will not waiver."

A couple of months ago DHEC conducted an investigation after a baby died following complications at an upstate birthing center in Fort Mill. The way the midwives handled the situation has been questioned by DHEC. Rathbun believes the change to the law is in reaction to that incident.

Rathbun says she's worried this change could put a mother and her baby's life in danger.

"If they need to go to the hospital, they need to go. They don't need to wait for a physician to get here," said Rathbun.

At a natural birth center, babies are delivered by certified midwives, not physicians. No surgeries are done at the centers.

Jessica Dimondstein and Aaron Mayer wanted to have their 10-day-old son Jake delivered at the birth center.

Dimondstien had to be transferred to the Trident Medical Center because she ended up needing a C-Section.

The husband and wife say they would not have wanted to wait for a doctor after the midwife already decided to do the transfer.

Dimondstein said, "I think it would have been detrimental. It would have wasted time for my safety, for his safety."

Mayer said, "DHEC's rules need to have a measure of common sense to them and this rule they're trying to impose on the birth centers now doesn't seem like it meets that criteria."

We reached out to DHEC for a response and have not heard back yet.

The Charleston Birth Place is planning a rally for Monday afternoon. They are still working on a place and time.

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