Effective March 1, Ascension Providence Hospital’s Alternative Birthing Center will eliminate the use of midwives. Instead, the center will be staffed by obstetricians.
It’s a decision that is forcing many expectant mothers to change their birth plans. People often use midwives for low-risk births to avoid surgical intervention.
“They allow you to walk and move and use whatever avenue you want to use to help your labor progress,” said Marisa Gaisky, who had her second child in April.
She gave birth to her first child at ABC in Ascension Providence while driving from Fenton.
“Because it was such a great experience, I was looking forward to doing it again,” she said, endorsing the patience and more holistic approach that midwives often bring to the delivery process.
But now, due to ABC’s decision to lay off staff with midwives, Marissa is changing her birth plans just weeks before she’s due to go into labor.
In a letter dated February 15, Ascension said that Providence Hospital “The transition to providing midwifery services will kick off on March 1, 2023. At that point, all deliveries will be performed by our highly qualified obstetricians, who also specialize in minimally invasive births.”
That letter further states that mothers and infants will continue to have access to the highest level of infant and obstetric care and that the policy change will not affect patients’ relationships with Ascension Providence Hospital or their access to alternative birthing centers.
However mothers like Marissa and Leah Hettinga, who are due any day now, want answers from the health system. Hatinga reached out to Ascension after hearing the news earlier this month.
“I got a kind of clichéd answer saying we’ll still be taking care of the mothers and the babies and they’re going to be safe here and does that answer your question? And it doesn’t,” she said.
Ascension issued the following statement to Action News on February 12, the same day a rally was held outside the hospital, demanding a halt to the changes:
“Families who wish to use a private practice certified nurse midwife are welcome to include her in their birthing experience, provided they have the necessary privileges to provide such services at Ascension Providence Hospital. Private Practice Certified Nurse Midwives Welcome to any Ascension Michigan hospital that provides labor and delivery services.
Ascension Providence Hospital continues to provide obstetrical services for expectant parents to ensure a high-quality, safe experience during their pregnancy and the birth of their child. Mothers and infants will continue to have access to the highest level of infant and obstetric care, including maternal-fetal medicine and neonatal specialized care, a level III neonatal intensive care unit, 24/7 obstetric emergency care, and more. Deliveries are performed by our highly qualified obstetricians, who also specialize in minimally invasive births.”
The rally, which was attended by both Leah and Marissa, sparked this petitionStarted by local doula Celeste Craft, who states on the petition page “In a state where the premature birth rate among black women is 55% higher than the total population, and in a country with dismal maternal mortality rates that exceed four times higher for black women than for whites, it is unconscionable that out-of-state crunchers would fire the very care providers who are most likely to positively impact these numbers by training, location, and a proven track record. Are in best condition.
Leah felt compelled to participate in a rally in support of herself and the midwives at the ABC.
“To close that model of care, it’s a disservice to the community,” she said.
Lee Roosevelt is president of the Michigan chapter of the American College of Nurse Midwives, and teaches at the University of Michigan. She said data shows that the best patient outcomes occur in hospitals with integrated systems, meaning both physicians and midwives are available to assist with labor and delivery.
“Just as unfair as it would be to expect a midwife to care for high-risk, sick people – I think it is also unfair to expect physicians to have the necessary skills and training to learn how to support people during labor. do,” she said.
Talking about the midwife’s role in general, “We see our role as one of constant support, of support, throughout the entire labor process. We’re actually in the bed with that patient,” she said. “And I think it’s hard to replace.”
Roosevelt told Action News that while patients in Ascension states are welcome to engage private practice nurse midwives with the necessary privileges, those privileges take time to obtain.
“What we know at the American College of Nurse Midwives is that once Ascension Midwifery practice ceased, we have no nurse midwives in the state of Michigan who are certified in Providence Southfield.”
This isn’t the first time Ascension has cut midwives on staff. This spring, it cut the midwifery staff at Ascension Borges in Kalamazoo in half.
Amanda Ezekiel worked as a Certified Nurse Midwife in Ascension Borges from 2016 to 2022.
“I mean I wasn’t totally surprised, because it happened to us. But it still hurts,” she said.
Ezekiel now works in another health system in the west of the state.
We’ve reached out to Ascension by phone and email to ask for clarification on what led to this decision in Providence. We’re still waiting to hear back, and will update this story if we do.
Marisa is now planning to deliver at another hospital, where a midwife will be available for her.