MotherBaby Network

advocacy and commentary with a focus on Lane County, Oregon

New PeaceHealth Nurse Midwifery Birth Center Opens

On Saturday, PeaceHealth hosted a grand opening of the new Nurse Midwifery Birth Center! More than 200 community supporters joined in the celebration.

The grand opening marks the re-opening of the Nurse Midwifery Birth Center practice in a new freestanding facility on the Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend campus. The practice began more than 20 years ago and has welcomed more than 5,600 children. On May 7, Donna and Corey Templeton welcomed Faye Patience,the first baby to arrive at the new center.

Expectant parents, new parents and little ones along with extended families and friends joined the Birth Center staff, PeaceHealth leadership and Sacred Heart Medical Center Foundation to celebrate the new facility. It was a joyous affair all the more special for the glorious spring weather. (See photos of the new Birth Center here and photos of the grand opening here.)

Each program speaker emphasized the critical community partnerships that made the new birth center a reality.

  • Tom Ewing, PeaceHealth Medical Group Chief Medical Officer, described the Birth Center services as “benchmark care.”
  • Mel Pyne, PeaceHealth Oregon Region CEO spoke to the importance of community collaboration. Pyne also read a congratulatory letter from Sen. Jeff Merkley. The Senator emphasized the importance of evidence-based breastfeeding support from prenatal care through the first year of a child’s life.
  • Midwife Michele Peters-Carr shared the staff’s pleasure in resuming the special work they do and the joy they feel in seeing the old birth center‘s spirit, history and love grace the new one.
  • Bob Scheri, PeaceHealth Director of Mission and Spiritual Care Services, brought the Birth Benter staff together where all could see and honor these women for the unique role they play in attending women and families to gently birth and welcome their babies.

Lane County Friends of the Birth Center made the following comments:

Good afternoon. My name is Katharine Gallagher and I am the chair of Lane County Friends of the Birth Center. I also served on the SHMC Foundation’s capital campaign. It is a pleasure to be here – the day before Mother’s Day and forty weeks, the gestation time for a baby, after construction began. It is an honor to thank PeaceHealth for making this day possible. Forgive me; I might take a bit more time than technically appropriate – my apologies!

Going back sixteen months, the future of PeaceHealth’s out-of-hospital maternity services was uncertain. The available funds to build a new facility at the RiverBend campus were insufficient to initiate construction. Deeply concerned, a group of Birth Center families met to identify how we could collectively communicate the importance of continued access to a freestanding birth center and invite community support for the construction of a new facility.

If you haven’t, I encourage you to talk to the women and families who use the Birth Center. You will hear descriptions that seem almost magical. Don’t be fooled – the birth center model is not magic, it just feels that way. These magical descriptions of birth center midwifery are the result of receiving care in line with the highest national and international standards for evidence-based mother and baby practice. Evidence-based care follows what research tells us yields the greatest good. In essence, these standards bring women into the center of their own care where they are fully engaged in preparing for birth, giving birth and caring for a new baby.

Originally seeking to maintain a personal choice in maternity care, Friends of the Birth Center has learned to value the connection between PeaceHealth’s birth center-based midwifery and the wellbeing of the community as a whole. Though largely unknown or overlooked, Lane County struggles with an unacceptably high fetal-infant mortality rate. It is higher than the nation; higher than the state; and higher than rates in comparable counties and it affects women and babies across all socio-economic, age and ethnic groups. The individualized, holistic care women and babies need to avoid these tragic outcomes happens at the Birth Center. The earlier the prenatal care, the better the outcomes and PeaceHealth honors this by serving all women at the Birth Center, regardless of their insurance status.

Many of us discover the seemingly magical benefits of the PeaceHealth birth center after our babies arrive and we begin to breastfeed and care for them. Most of us need to learn how to breastfeed, to establish and maintain our milk supply and to incorporate breastfeeding into our lives, especially as we resume commitments in addition to mothering a newborn. The Birth Center knows birth is the middle, not the final, event of maternity care, even if most of us don’t! After we give birth, we along with our families are seamlessly ushered into a twenty-four hour lactation support system and a weekly baby clinic where we weigh our babies, ask lactation experts questions and find peer support among the many other moms, dads and grandparents who attend. We go home confident that breastfeeding works. This comprehensive postpartum support is key to seeing breastfeeding extend beyond initiation.

This lifeline -like, evidence-based breastfeeding care has a name: the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. As the name suggests, this initiative is not just for birth centers. Most Baby Friendly facilities in the country are hospitals. I raise this point because Lane County has very high rates of breastfeeding initiation but steep drop off rates once women go home. Ensuring all women and families receive Baby Friendly care is a goal worthy of our community and one we can accomplish. We can do this and we will be better for it.

I will close with heartfelt thanks to PeaceHealth Oregon CEO Mel Pyne for his vision and leadership and to his staff for their commitment to getting the job done. From our first overture, Friends of the Birth Center was welcomed into a productive dialogue and partnership. We are also grateful for Rueben Mayes’ leadership of the SHMC Foundation and to his staff for supporting every effort to identify all potential pathways forward. That PeaceHealth pressed forward during a wrenchingly difficult and turbulent recession speaks to its capacity and resolve to invest in the future by providing the much-loved, cost effective, prevention-oriented care that will yield excellent long-term outcomes for Lane County women, babies, families and the community.

That PeaceHealth’s investment should result in an uncommonly attractive facility in a setting of remarkable natural beauty speaks to its respect for the community – US. Friends of the Birth Center looks forward to continuing its partnership with PeaceHealth and to continuing efforts to foster connections among Birth Center families.

Thank you for the new Nurse Midwifery Birth Center – the best Mother’s Day gift ever!

Lane County Friends of the Birth Center welcomes community participation. To learn more, please read our membership letter of invitation.

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