Birthing centers would need licenses under NC legislation

Raleigh, N.C. — The state Department of Health and Human Services would have the authority to license and inspect birthing centers, under a bill filed Thursday by a powerful senator.

would require birthing centers to apply annually for a license, and they would be precluded from performing any complex surgery or using epidurals or other anesthesia. DHHS inspectors could investigate complaints against a birthing center, review its records and facilities as needed and be able to suspend or revoke the license.

The bill was filed by Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, co-chairman of the Senate Health Care Committee.

Although the North Carolina Board of Nursing handles complaints against nurse midwives, there is no official state oversight of birthing centers in North Carolina.

Officials with DHHS‘ Division of Health Services Regulation recently to conduct a voluntary review of its Cary center.

Baby+Co. , following the deaths of three newborns in five months and a fourth needing hospitalization at Duke University Hospital‘s neonatal intensive care unit.

During the suspension, the company, which operates six birthing centers nationwide, including facilities in Charlotte and Winston-Salem, has been reviewing all protocols to determine if changes are needed.

“We are very supportive of the state‚Äôs effort to implement a licensing framework for birth centers and believe the proposed legislation is a good step forward,” Baby+Co. officials said in a statement. “Additionally, we would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the North Carolina Medical Care Commission to help ensure the standards that underpin the legislation are developed in consultation with birth center experts and best practices.”

DHSR‘s findings from the Cary inspection haven‘t been released yet.

Deb Fiore, who has worked as a certified nurse midwife for 18 years, said the bill is a first step to insure safer births in the state.

“This is not something that is out of the box, it‘s not a witch hunt against midwives and their patients, this is something that would be a positive step in bringing up the standard of birth centers in our state to meet a national standard that is already in place,” she said.