Welcome birth advocates to our first installment of the “Mother-Sized Activism” feature on this blog, where we take an issue and put the relevant information together so you can grab a few minutes out of your day and help make a real difference. So many of us can get overwhelmed thinking of all the work that needs to be done. Let’s chop up that work into little manageable pieces. Ready?
Joy Szabo tells us her story in this guest blogging post:
Page Hospital has decided to not allow mothers to vaginally deliver their babies if the mother has had a cesarean in the past. I would be one of the affected patients. In February 2002, I had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery. In February of 2004, an emergency cesarean was necessary because of placental abruption. In December of 2007, I delivered a healthy 8+ lb baby boy at Page Hospital by VBAC. I received strong pressure from the hospital staff encouraging a repeat cesarean, but delivered vaginally in spite of the effort. Having had a successful VBAC since my cesarean, I don’t find any medical need for an elective cesarean for my current pregnancy. I am wary of having a surgery with no medical indication for it. I am sure it would not be ethical.
If the concern is for legal liability, the logic is flawed. If I desired a VBAC in this community whose hospital has adopted the ACOG standard, effectively denying me a VBAC, and if my cesarean birth resulted in harm to me or to my baby, I would have very strong legal standing to bring a lawsuit (for example, the Meador vs Stahler and Gheridian case in Massachusetts).
I found out about this hospital’s VBAC ban at my August OB appointment, and set about fighting it right away. I wrote a letter to the hospital, explaining my arguments about VBAC. As I was driving, I heard there was a meeting of the Board of Directors that same night. I printed out several copies of the letter, printed up supporting research and documentation, and presented everyone at the board meeting with a copy of the whole thing. I was called a few days later to have a meeting with the CEO, Sandy Haryasz. I met with her. She told me that she was an RN who had worked in L&D for many years. I was very polite and discussed my situation with her and told her that my risk of major complications was about the same as a first time moms. She listened very sweetly and agreed that I was a great candidate for a successful VBAC. She offered to help as best as she can to find me another place to deliver. I reminded her that the next closest hospital in Arizona, Flagstaff Medical Center, also has banned VBAC. She was recommending I go to Dixie Hospital in St. George, Utah. We ended the meeting very politely.
I thought for a bit, had some unanswered questions, so called Sandy’s office again to schedule another appointment. At this meeting I asked why they are doing labor and delivery if they cannot offer a timely cesarean. She defended the hospital, saying that they can do emergency cesaereans, but did not want to accept the risk of VBAC. I asked what the hospital policy is if I show up and just refuse to consent to a cesarean. She said they would seek a court order. She repeated to me that Page Hospital does not have the facilities nessasary to handle an emergency.
At my September OB appointment, I told my doctor what I had been up to. He was filled with apathy. He was wringing his hands, and said he would have to do it if the hospital told him he had to. He told me he would lose his licence if he didn’t. I have looked into it and have yet to find where doctors lose their licence for having ethics. But it was clear to me that I was not safe in this hospital, and if I step foot in the building, I would have a cesarean, and my doctor would do it while I scream in protest.
I have decided I will have to go to Phoenix, where I might have a place to stay. I used to live down there and know the area. I will be having a consult with an OB, and hopefully that will go well.
(note: Phoenix is a five hour drive from her home in Page, AZ)
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Just pick one! Or do them all… but decide you’ll choose one mother-sized bit and do it today. Do it right now!
1) Contact the hospital directly and let them know what you think about this policy. Try to make it meaningful to that community. Do you live in Page or in Arizona? Do you have family that might be there? We recommend asking to speak to the CEO Sandy Haryasz. You’re probably going to get voice mail or go through some staff, so be polite and not too wordy. Remember to stick to the issue: a woman is being told she would be forced to have unnecessary major abdominal surgery because their hospital is saying that they cannot handle an emergency situation should it arise.
Phone: (928) 645-2424
Snail: Page Hospital 501 N. Navajo P.O. Box 1447 Page, AZ 86040
2) Contact Banner Health and let them know what you think about one of their hospitals having such a policy. Banner Health has facilities in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming. If you live in one of these states or have family who do, your voice is especially important. Tell Banner why stories like Joy’s make you personally less likely to want to be a patient with them, and why you will encourage others to make the same choice. Be specific about why a VBAC ban is not serving the best health of consumers, and why hiding behind “well other hospitals do it” isn’t good enough. Even if you are not local, letting Banner Health know that people from all over the United States are outraged about Joy’s situation is still important. Be polite and don’t just offer opinion, offer some of the great wealth of research that shows VBAC is the safer choice for most mothers and babies.
Twitter: @BannerBill will get you Bill Byron, Banner Health’s PR guy. Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Phoenix-AZ/Banner-Health/48559670681
Contact form: http://www.bannerhealth.com/_Contact+Us/_feedback.htm
3) Contact the local media if you know of a way to tie in this story to your own community, or you live near Page or in Arizona. If it could happen to this average mother, it could happen to you or your neighbor or friend. Make your pitch short and sweet and include your phone number if you’re a local contact. Avoid hyperbole, but don’t shy away from showing the connection between this event and other ways that birthing women’s rights are being eroded.
Remember to be familiar with what ACOG actually says. A good document to start with is their document on patient rights. Remember that informed consent also means informed refusal. http://www.acog.org/from_home/publications/ethics/co439.pdf
Thank you for participating! Tweet us or join our Facebook page and let us know how you participated with your Mother-Sized Activism!