Letter Template

I am writing in regards to the abrupt announcement to shutter McKenzie Willamette Midwifery and Lactation Services. This Midwifery service has been operable for just three years and has provided valuable services to the community since its inception. They are a unique practice that is unrivaled in Eugene-Springfield and which has brought positive attention to MWMC within the birthing community.  

The McKenzie Midwives are the only independent in-hospital midwifery service providing 24/7 coverage at MWMC and the highest rated of the two available in the general community. They provide in and out-patient lactation services for their patients and the broader community, as well as contraceptive care, well-woman care, comprehensive postpartum care and medical termination services. There is no comparable alternative to these services. In addition, McKenzie Midwives were the only practice to sign an agreement to care for clients of the Lane County Public Health Charnelton Prenatal Clinic when they closed in 2021.  

This closure is in direct opposition to all recommendations from the CDC, the WHO, the White House, and the UN, all of whom recognize midwives as integral to a high quality maternity care system. In fact, the evidence shows that better integration of midwives into health systems is fundamental to reducing primary and maternity care shortages and to addressing racial, ethnic and  geographic health inequalities (Edmonds, 2020. Annals of Global Health). If you are unaware, we are currently facing a maternal mortality crisis, with maternal mortality rates well above that of every other high income country, and our black, Latina and Indigenous women suffer even higher rates on average than whites. Midwifery care is associated with improved quality of care and rapid and sustained reductions in maternal mortality and infant mortality (WHO).  

By accepting low-income vulnerable patients from the Charnelton Clinic (something none of the  group OB/Gyn practices were willing to do) regardless of ability to pay, the McKenzie Midwives filled an immediate public health gap that may have left these families at risk of receiving no prenatal/newborn care. The McKenzie Midwives have demonstrated a commitment to providing equitable care to our community and working to reduce disparities in access to care.  

Furthermore, owing to the work of McKenzie Midwives, nursing leadership, and Dr. Jess Versage, MWMC L&D became the first hospital to join the Oregon Perinatal Collaborative’s Oregon Community Birth Transfer Partnership (OCBTP). The OCBTP is a joint partnership between area hospitals and community birth providers practicing at home and in free-standing birth centers.  The  aim is to improve the transfer experience from community to hospital based care for the patients and all providers. One year into this partnership, a systematic evaluation of survey data demonstrates overwhelmingly positive patient experiences transferring to the McKenzie Midwives. Midwife to midwife transfers provide the highest degree of safety and satisfaction for community members choosing to birth out of hospital.  

Oregon is a pro-choice state and this is more critical than ever. The McKenzie Midwives offered safe, respectful access to medical abortion and contraceptive care. The ability to choose when and if to give birth is critical to the health and well-being of women and families. Those most vulnerable families found access to these services in a trusted environment.  

By closing this practice you are turning away from what is best for the health of women and babies in this community, ignoring inequitable maternal mortality rates, and disregarding public demand for the ability to choose midwifery care on a continuum. There is not an alternative in this community. Currently two free-standing birth centers staffed by CNMs exist in Springfield, however they are not privileged at MWMC and could not possibly absorb the volume of patients that will be abandoned when McKenzie Midwifery closes, even IF all of them were candidates for out of hospital birth.   

Profit is not, nor has it ever been, what makes a hospital successful. Rather, reputation, built on providing person-centered, respectful, safe, equitable and individualized care breeds success. I urge you to put patients and our community before profits and reinstate the McKenzie Midwifery and Lactation Services immediately.