A state House bill that would establish a licensing requirement for birthing centers is headed to the House floor after clearing its third committee Monday.
House Bill 575, with Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, as a co-primary sponsor, was introduced April 3. The bill cleared the Health committee April 30 and Finance committee June 26.
The bill, if signed into law, would be effective retroactively to July 1.
A licensed birthing center would be limited to low-risk, uncomplicated deliveries.
The license for a birthing center would be administrated by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, which would also inspect the facilities.
The state health secretary would be able to suspend the services of a birthing center, and DHHS would be able to deny, suspend or revoke a license “with a substantial failure to comply” with the law in terms of safety and compliance.
The bill also would establish “basic standards and enforcement for the care and treatment of mothers and infants in birth centers.”
The impetus for the bill was the recent deaths of three infants over a seven-month period at the Baby+Co free-standing birthing center in Cary. The group has since closed its freestanding centers in Cary, Charlotte and Winston-Salem.
Lambeth said there could have been a connection between the filing of the bill and the Baby+Co decision to leave North Carolina.
“We have been working on this for months, and many in the industry knew it was being worked on, but did not necessarily know what was in the bill, so it could have been one factor of many,” Lambeth said.
“When the situation occurred in Cary, it may have started the discussions about the future of birthing centers in a more regulated environment and was that a business model they could sustain long term.”
Lambeth said other factors in the Baby+Co decision could be the implementation of Medicaid reform between now and early 2020, as well as additional competition from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s plans to resume providing low-risk birthing centers in late July.
The bill would require birthing centers to report any deaths or serious physical injury to a mother or infant to DHHS within 15 days for investigation.
Restrictions would include: no abortions; no general or conduction anesthesia allowed; no performing of vaginal births after the mother previously had a cesarean.
The centers would be required to offer mothers an ultrasound between the 18th and 22nd week of their pregnancies, as recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The centers would be required to have transfer policies in place for complicated births that require deliveries in a hospital setting.