Closure of Thornton Birth Center, adding to drop in maternal care options

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The doors are closing on one of Colorado’s few birthing centers.

The closure of Seasons Midwifery and Birth Center comes even as state health department figures show a steady increase in the number of women choosing to have children in these settings compared to a traditional hospital.

“His feet are right here,” Mikayla Norcross said, pointing to two tiny footprints on a wall in Seasons.

Norcross has just completed her care there after having her baby boy Ari in June. It was an experience that she says was very different from that of her first child.

“I can’t say I had a bad experience at the hospital. Maybe it was what I expected at the time, but there were some procedures I might have had. being chosen not to do now, in hindsight,” she said.

“The biggest losers are the families,” seasons manager Aubre Tompkins said. “They are ultimately the biggest victims of this mismatch between how the system works and how we get paid.”

Tompkins says the center was not bringing in the revenue expected by the private equity firm that owned their clinic and ultimately the decision was made to close them.

“Insurance companies and Medicaid don’t reimburse us at the same rates that they reimburse hospitals and so there’s automatically a disparity in the funding we have,” Tompkins said.

It’s a problem for their center and other maternal care providers across Colorado and across the country.

“Probably the most obvious is the closure of rural hospitals. The volume and diversity of payment structures is what keeps birthing centers and others financially solvent,” said Denise Smith, assistant professor at CU College of Nursing.

Smith says it might be time to consider restructuring that system.

“The return on investment in reproduction and maternity care is for the people, our communities and our families if the motive is other than that, then, we have to ask ourselves what do we really value?” she asked.

While the loss is personal for Norcross, having fewer options, she says, hurts everyone.

“I think it’s so important to keep it open,” Norcross said.

Seasons hopes to reopen as Colorado’s first nonprofit birthing center in January and has begun fundraising to help achieve that goal at the following links:

https://donorbox.org/seasonstransformationfund

https://www.change.org/p/seasons-birth-center-closure

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