Importance of Midwives

RECEIVED Mon., Nov. 17, 2003

   While I appreciate the Chronicle's coverage of the efforts of ordinary citizens to bring midwives back into Austin hospitals ["Will Women Have a Voice at the New Women's Hospital?" Nov. 14], I would like to clarify two points.
   1) The majority of the City Council Healthcare Subcommittee has voiced a strong desire to bring nurse midwives into the new Austin Women's Hospital, and has urged city staff to make it a priority in its negotiations with UTMB. Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman and council members Raul Alvarez and Danny Thomas have been outspoken in their commitment to giving women this choice.
   2) The city staff claims that "a hospital cannot direct doctor to have a relationship with a midwife." I disagree. UTMB is no ordinary hospital, since it employs physicians. UTMB "could provide faculty to supervise midwives," according to a Sept. 27 Statesman article, quoting UTMB's chairman of obstetrics and gynecology. Furthermore, nurse midwives do not need supervision. The American College of Nurse Midwives and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend collaboration between midwives and OBs – not supervision.
   Nurse midwives attend the majority of births in countries that have better birth outcomes than the U.S., which ranks 27th in infant mortality and 15th in maternal mortality. With such a poor showing, it is hard to believe that the U.S. spends more money on health care (per capita) than any other country in the world – with maternity care as the fourth-largest expenditure. Midwives are key to affordable and effective maternity care in universal health care systems in England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Chile, and Thailand.
   The American Public Health Association supports "increased access to midwifery services" and so does Texans for Midwifery-Austin. We want the right to choose the care that we believe is best for us and our babies.
Amy Chamberlain
President, Texans for Midwifery-Austin
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