Proposed bill would require a license for NC birth centers

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A North Carolina lawmaker is hoping a bill that would require licensing for out-of-hospital birth centers will pass quickly and become law.

One of Sen. Mike Woodard's constituents lost their child during delivery at Baby + Co. in Cary.

The natural birthing center where three newborn deaths were reported over a seven month period will permanently close all three of its North Carolina centers on May 15.

"The loss of those three young lives was not in vain," said Woodard (D), Durham. "It's a good time for us to provide the safeguards families need when they choose midwifery service."

The Birth Center Licensure Act, filed in the House and Senate earlier this month would require an annual license for birth centers.

The Department of Health and Human Services would have the power to inspect without permission and suspend or revoke the license of a birth center that fails to comply with standards.

The bill also calls for the creation of a Birth Center Commission that would be made up of licensed physicians and certified nurse midwives.

The commission would set the standards and tell DHHS which birth centers should be approved or denied a license.

Women's Birth and Wellness Center in Chapel Hill is now accepting patients from Baby + Co. who are finding themselves without a provider.

Sarah Dumas, clinical director for the center and a certified nurse midwife, said her center delivers 35-40 babies every month.

"I think that women are really looking to have a model of care where they really feel like their choices and their decisions and their voices are at the center of their care," said Dumas.

Dumas wants her center, the oldest natural birthing center in the state, to be licensed.

It's accredited, just as with every other birth center in North Carolina, but it's never before been required to be licensed.

"My hope is that with licensure that we will become more and more of an integrated part of the perinatal care system in North Carolina," she said.
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