Hearing Set for Proposed Hardin County Birthing Center

Feb 18, 2013

A certified nurse midwife in central Kentucky has applied to open the first alternative birthing center in the state.

Mary Carol Akers told The News Enterprise that she thinks women in Kentucky should have more birthing options and has applied to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family for a certificate of need in order to build and operate the Visitation Birth and Family Wellness Center in Elizabethtown.

The certificate is required to safeguard against having too many health care facilities.

Cabinet spokeswoman Beth Fisher says there are no other alternative birthing centers licensed in the state.

"I want you to know that women deserve another option," Akers said.

Her application says the center will have spacious "birth suites" which will accommodate "normal uncomplicated births."

"The VBFWC will not confine mothers to beds or even to their rooms, they are not encumbered with monitors or IVs and can move freely as they want during labor. Even the choice of birth position is the mother's," it states.

A hearing has been set for Feb. 20-21, and Akers said she has research to defend her point of view and experts lined up to testify in favor of the center.

Meanwhile, three area hospitals are opposing her plans. Hardin Memorial Hospital, Flaget Memorial Hospital in Bardstown and Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center in Leitchfield have filed documents with the state in opposition to the center.

Hardin Memorial Hospital spokeswoman Michelle Murphy said in an email that officials there have "legitimate patient safety concerns."

Hospital President and CEO Dennis Johnson and chief medical officer Dr. Stephen Toadvine said emergencies arising from the center would be transferred there to be treated by obstetricians who played no part in the management of the pregnancy.

Akers said she would release all medical records in such a situation and noted that there are other emergency situations in which doctors treat pregnant woman without prior knowledge of their pregnancy.

Johnson also noted another concern.

"We welcome competition, but this is the only birthing center in Kentucky," Johnson said. "And I'd rather the only birthing center in the state not be in our backyard."

Akers said if the project is approved she expects to begin with a staff of 10, three of which would be midwives. She said the center would have a physician's presence.

Akers said she has several letters of support that will be submitted during the hearing this week, including one from Melissa Willmarth, a midwife and an educator for the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing.

"There are very few opportunities in the state of Kentucky in which students can obtain this valuable experience," Willmarth stated in the letter. "As a midwife, I believe it is also important to support the voice of the women that we serve. Many women are choosing safe, low-intervention options for birth in our state. Hospitals are often the place for ill or injured patients. Birthing women and families are experiencing a normal physiologic process in their lives and the birth center would allow them a safe, nurturing environment in which to choose."