Temporary Victory for North Carolina Midwives and Expecting Mothers

(Care2) Several midwives and their clients in North Carolina received a terrible blow last week when the decision of one doctor revoked the licenses of 7 of the state’s 11 homebirth midwives. The N.C. Board of Nursing and the N.C. Medical Board issued a policy change this week to enable certified nurse midwives whose supervising doctor becomes suddenly unavailable for any reason to continue operating for up to 75 days while they seek a new supervising physician.

While the action comes as a relief to the clients of the midwives whose doctor, Dr. Henry Dorn of High Point, NC,  suddenly dropped them, it’s not necessarily a long term solution because so few doctors in the state of North Carolina are willing to supervise homebirth midwives.

Dr. Dorn told the midwives he would no longer supervise them because the Board of Medicine was prohibiting it, so dismayed midwifery clients and supporters flooded the Board of Medicine and public officials that might influence them, including the governor, with calls, faxes, and emails last week after several media outlets covered the story. However, Jean Fisher Brinkley, the NC Medical Board director of public affairs told Chapelboro.com that Dr. Dorn “has a full and unrestricted license to practice medicine.” N.C. Medical Board President Ralph C. Loomis wrote a letter to the editor of the News Observer asserting that “[t]he board has no policy that would prohibit physicians from supervising [certified nurse midwives] and has no plans to adopt such a policy.” Dr. Dorn has declined media interviews.

“It’s been remarkable over the last couple of days how well the Board of Medicine and the Board of Nursing and the Joint Midwifery Committee have worked together in order to come up with a short term solution,” said Fayetteville midwife Nancy Harman. “So what we need to do is build on that.”

North Carolina House Bill 522 and Senate Bill 662 would provide legal access to Certified Professional Midwives (CPM) and increase access to Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) that provide homebirth. Planned home birth that is attended by a midwife can be as safe, or perhaps safer, than planned hospital birth with a dramatic reduction in cesarean section, and other potentially harmful interventions, at a fraction of the cost. The best and safest environment for homebirth women and their babies is one in which midwives, both CPM, and CNM, and local doctors and hospitals can collaborate and work together enabling consultations and smooth transfers of care.