THERE ARE now only eight hospitals offering maternity services in the Philadelphia region. Eighteen obstetric units or hospitals with them have closed over the last 12 years.
This is of great significance for developing city neighborhoods and, as an at-large candidate for City Council, one of the key topics of my campaign will emphasize the importance of revitalizing access to inpatient, emergency and maternity health services as principal agents in creating a family-based infrastructure of community, employment, education and wellness.
The recent announcement that as of June 30, Mercy Suburban Hospital will eliminate maternity services continues the pattern of disregard for family values and the lack of respect for the needs of women who require birthing options.
We can argue that the cause lies somewhere between malpractice insurance, insurer/government reimbursement rates or uninsured patients and cost to provide service, but the ultimate discussion should be about the obligation of the charitable mission of not-for-profit hospitals and the effect on eliminating services in the communities they serve.
Since the maternity-care crisis in Philadelphia has mostly gone unnoticed, I'd like to develop awareness and provide information that will contribute to solving this problem.
The representatives of Philadelphia neighborhoods must work for an increase in the availability of health services, especially facilities where expectant mothers can comfortably receive support focusing on their child-delivery needs.
The continuing reduction in maternity options in Philadelphia has created a deficiency that calls for a remedy in the form of a new facility dedicated to birthing options. The establishment of such a maternity center would merge altruistic neighborhood support and corporate participation to solve a natural community need.
Philadelphia-area hospitals that no longer exist (*) or have closed their maternity departments include:
Medical College of Pa.,* 1997
Nazareth Hospital, 1998
Germantown Hospital,* 1998
City Avenue Hospital,* 1999
Roxborough Memorial, 1999
Warminster Hospital,* 2000
Elkins Park Hospital, 2001
Episcopal Hospital, 2001
Mercy Phila. Hospital, 2002
Methodist Hospital, 2002
Mercy Fitzgerald, 2003
Parkview Hospital,* 2003
Jeanes Hospital, 2007
Chestnut Hill Hospital, 2008
Central Montgomery, 2009
Brandywine Hospital, 2009
The latest came at Northeastern in July as it became the 18th medical facility to exit the baby-delivery business.
Elected representatives and community groups like local civic associations must come together and offer solutions and support for solving this problem. Although civic associations are mostly focused on zoning issues or Town Watch programs, the community development part of their mission should be expanded to include the health and welfare of neighbors.
Support from local organizations like the Maternity Care Coalition and Womancare, whose missions include providing birthing options in the city, might be leveraged to build interest in creating new birthing options.
THESE SHOULD be structured as a community institution where federal, state and local dollars can provide adequate reimbursement for maternity care regardless
of income level or insurance qualifications.
The business of a hospital is to provide for the community benefit. A maternity-care facility should be based on the responsibility of a not-for-profit institution whose charitable mission and vision statements promote the best interests of neighborhood families.
Elmer Money works in health-care administration and lives in Morrell Park.