Monday, June 17, 2019

Correcting PeaceHealth & Call to Action #1

In this, our twelfth post since PeaceHealth announced its misguided plan to take the Nurse Midwifery Birth Center away from the community, we offer supporters and interested parties a two parter. 

First, is a thoughtful, thorough, and needed response to PeaceHealths' June 7 statement provided to KEZI in advance of our Rally to #SaveTheNurseMidwiferyBirthCenter

Second, is our first Call to Action, which invites our community together to speak out loudly and clearly about the importance of preserving our access to the Nurse Midwifery Birth Center for generations to come. Readers can always find the latest action by clicking on a version of this sign on the right margin of this blog. The specifics are also included below. In addition to  #SaveTheNurseMidwiferyBirthCenter , we will use and encourage others to include  #birthcentercalltoaction  to amplify our collective grassroots presence online. 

Before reading, do be sure to look to the right side of this blog to see our growing list of support received thus far from Congressman DeFazio, Commissioners Sorenson and Berney, Rep. Marty Wilde, and Eugene City Councilor Semple as well as Centro Latino Americano, the Oregon Affiliate of the American College of Nurse Midwifery, and the American Association of Birth Centers.  

1st: Correcting PeaceHealth’s June 7 Statement 

In advance of our Rally on June 7, PeaceHealth issued the following statement:

PeaceHealth’s Mission calls us to provide safe, sustainable, high-quality care for mothers and families in Lane County. As our decision to transition Birth Center deliveries to RiverBend has been made, our focus now is on how to offer an integrated model at RiverBend that continues midwifery services through partnerships and that preserves the valued services including prenatal and postpartum care for Lane County women. We are continuing to explore ways to repurpose the existing Birth Center facility to provide enhanced family-centered services for our community. 
Our invitation to the Lane County Friends of the Birth Center leadership continues to be extended and we look forward to including them in our planning process. We value their viewpoint and share their desire to provide Lane County women with a spectrum of birth plan choices. It is our sincere hope that we will work together to make sure all expectant mothers enjoy safe, meaningful and empowering childbirth experiences today and well into the future.

We would like to respond to this statement to provide some clarifying details.

PeaceHealth has invited a representative from the Lane County Friend of the Birth Center to participate in a Work Group that will be tasked with defining and designing the new low risk in -hospital model of care.  We first learned of this Work Group on May 7, during our first conversation with a member of PeaceHealth’s administration, Dr. Scott Foster, Chief Medical Executive for PeaceHealth Medical Group.  We held three informal information-gathering meetings with Dr. Foster on May 7, May 8, and May 15.  These meetings were held during the work day at Coffee Plant Roasters and Friendly Street Market.  To aid in our information gathering, over the past few weeks we have also posed a number of questions via text to Dr. Foster and have received his responses via text.  We have appreciated his responsiveness.

Additionally we have collectively had 5 brief and unscheduled phone conversations with Todd Salnas, COO.  The first one was on May 15 around 11:30am when he called each of our co-chairs to cancel our meeting at 3pm that afternoon.  This was shortly after we posted our statement about the birth center closure on the blog, as well as a post about meeting with Mr. Salnas, so the timing appears to be more than coincidental.  When we pressed for an alternative meeting time he suggested he wouldn’t be ready to meet with us for another two weeks or so.  It’s unclear why he would have scheduled our May 15 meeting if he was not in fact ready to meet with us, unless that had been just for show.

Todd Salnas called us again on May 22. In this phone call we specifically requested that he take a tour of the Birth Center (since, despite already agreeing to close it, he had never actually been to the Birth Center).  We also clearly and specifically requested a meeting in which our larger board could have the opportunity to voice the concerns of our greater community. 

Todd Salnas caucused with his team and responded to us on May 23, via phone, stating the PeaceHealth Administration “only wants to convene with people who want to talk about the future.”   We were frustrated and disappointed to hear this.  We pushed for more details about the Work Group and they still didn’t exist.

On Friday, May 31, Todd Salnas indicated via email that they were working on draft charters for this Work Group and hoped to have something to share with us in two weeks or less.  That was 11 days ago.  

On Wednesday June 12, we called Todd Salnas to get an update on the Work Group process.  We had heard there was a meeting yesterday and wanted to understand the nature of it and the status of our invitation to participate.  The meeting was among the project leadership and they intend to send us a copy of their draft project charter, participant structure, anticipated project timeline and schedule, etc. early next week.  In this call we again expressed our frustration with how PeaceHealth administration is handling this situation and unlike their predecessors have not engaged directly in person with our community in collaborative problem solving to discuss potential ways to keep the Birth Center open beyond August 30.  

In our very first meeting with Scott Foster on May 7, he indicated a desire to have the in-hospital low risk model plan all worked out by the end of June in order to give PeaceHealth time to execute on the plan and be ready to provide these services on Sept. 1.  Considering the current status of the Work Group it’s hard to imagine how a plan could be finalized, let alone executed upon, by Sept. 1. 

The PeaceHealth Oregon CEO has continued to refuse a direct meeting with Lane County Friends of the Birth Center; and while other staff members have offered informal time, they have cancelled all formal meetings without rescheduling. If PeaceHealth truly wants to 'include us in their planning process,' they ought to meet with us, the official consumer group of the Nurse Midwifery Birth Center and be prepared to hear our concerns as advocates for the midwifery-led birth center model of care.

2nd: Call to Action

Following is our first Call to Action correspondence with community members who want to take concrete steps toward ensuring we preserve access to our midwifery-led and freestanding birth center which, among many, many important services, also provides out of hospital birth to women and families. Supporters, any and all action matters and is appreciated. 

Remember to use:
 #birthcentercalltoaction  and  #SaveTheNurseMidwiferyBirthCenter   when posting anywhere online. This way, each of our individual efforts can amplify the collective whole. 

June 15, 2019
Dear Birth Center Supporter,

THANK YOU for your participation in an amazing rally #SaveTheNurseMidwiferyBirthCenter!  

Our vocal and visible presence sent a clear message to leadership at PeaceHealth and to our larger community: WE DESERVE A BIRTH CENTER!  It was incredible to see our community come out in force to insist that families in our region should have healthcare CHOICE, that we are the decision-makers about where our healthcare MONEY goes, and that current DATA supports our knowledge that birth center care improves outcomes for mothers and babies.  Friends of the Birth Center, the consumer advisory board, is proud to advocate with and on behalf of this vibrant and knowledgeable community!

Now we appreciate and invite YOU--our living, breathing, birthing, nursing, parenting community members--to continue stepping in to keep this fight alive!  PeaceHealth would like to wait us out; they are betting that we will lose momentum and get quiet, at which point they can close our Nurse Midwifery Birth Center without consequences to them.  But that’s not going to happen!  If we each take some time and effort over the coming weeks, we can continue to keep our fight in the public eye, and therefore keep PeaceHealth accountable to us and to the public it purports to serve.

To that end, we will send a WEEKLY CALL TO ACTION with specific requests.  If our entire grassroots community steps up to complete these tasks, we will keep our fight in the public eye and force PeaceHealth to engage.  We hope the WEEKLY CALL TO ACTION will make it straightforward, concrete, and easy for Birth Center supporters to participate; any effort you can make is appreciated, and the more we can do the better!

For this week, our focus is on keeping our fight visible to PeaceHealth administration and the media.  

WEEKLY ACTION #1: Call Mary Kingston, the PeaceHealth RiverBend CEO, and demand that she hold a formal in-person meeting with the Friends of the Birth Center - as previous RiverBend administrators have done -  to discuss potential solutions and alternatives to closing the PeaceHealth Nurse Midwifery Birth Center.

PeaceHealth RiverBend administration has refused to accommodate to our repeated meeting requests unless we agree to only talk about the nebulous future in-hospital model.  So now we flood them with calls!  Call every day, if you like.

Here is Mary Kingston’s contact information: (541) 222-2159

You may find it useful to reference this article, in which Mary Kingston discusses her role and values as a healthcare administrator: Mary Kingston RG article

Take video of yourself making your call!  Post it to the Friends of the Birth Center Facebook page,Tweet with ‪.‪@PeaceHealth_Ore and .@LaneCoFBC, or email it to us at
WEEKLY ACTION #2: Write letters to the editor to the Register-Guard.
This is crucial because, if editors continue to receive letters, they understand that this issue is important to their readers.  Even if your letter does not get chosen for publication, it raises the profile of our concerns, and increases the likelihood that a letter on this topic will get published.  These letters can take many forms.  Our talking points are attached; feel free to use them as inspiration.  

Here are some samples of letters:

Here are details about letters to the editor and the address to which they should be sent:

And when your letter is complete, send it to so that we can post it on our blog!  The more letters we have, the more stories we can share, and the more influence we can gain!

WEEKLY ACTION #3: Wear your Save the Birth Center shirt around town!  
This action helps us continue to educate more of our fellow community members.  It also helps us meet one another.  When you see another Birth Center supporter wearing a shirt, make sure to say hello.  Our community grows larger and stronger by the day, and you can help this continue!  Send and post pictures of you & your people in your t-shirts.

Thanks in advance for your efforts!  If you have concerns or are interested in getting involved with our organization in a more substantial way, please be in touch! Everyone in our community can help make a difference!   Let’s do this!

In solidarity,

Friends of the Birth Center

Lane County Friends of the Birth Center
Hashtag: #SaveTheNurseMidwiferyBirthCenter

Monday, June 10, 2019

Rally Review


As planned and promised, Friday’s rally was a large community event. More than 200 birth center supporters turned out. We were pregnant women, partners of pregnant women, young children, grandparents, and, generally speaking, community members of all ages and stages in life who understand the importance of and support women having choice in childbirth setting and care. We were a walking, chanting embodiment of the ideals expressed in PeaceHealth’s mission and values. So, too, was the petition we delivered with nearly 10,000 signatures. If you missed the rally, check out the media coverage and look at our Twitter feed @LaneCoFBC for the blow-by-blow tweets.

Community Shows Up, PeaceHealth Still Deliberately MIA 

There is something really wrong when healthcare providers – looking at you PeaceHealth and Women’s Care – put pregnant women and their families in a profound bind: give up and go away or stand up for what is right. Isn’t standing up for what is right what PeaceHealth and Women’s Care should be doing? What’s worse is these entities behave in ways that suggest their strategy is to out wait us, to wear us down. How cynical. Waiting us out is their strategy for pushing through plans that hurt our community. Doing this on the backs of pregnant women is, in a word, shameful.

As a health care provider, PeaceHealth should be supporting the birth choices of pregnant women. Instead, it creates and persists in a situation in which women are left with no alternative but to go into the street to rally for access to evidence-based, affordable birth care. See “Why We Rally” for more on this as well as our rally talking points. And, then check out the flair and panache with which rallying is done. Click here and scroll down till you see the many fabulous signs.

Federal, State, County, and City Elected officials say: #SaveTheNurseMidwiferyBirthCenter

While we persist, PeaceHealth digs in to wait us out and shut us out. We are incredibly grateful for our elected representatives who have voiced their whole-hearted support for our objective: maintaining and expanding access to midwifery-led care at the Nurse Midwifery Birth Center.

We have support from city, county, state, and federal elected representatives. Why is our representatives’ expression of support met by a wall of silence from PeaceHealth, which is awash in government dollars? How can this lack of accountability and transparency be deemed acceptable behavior?

Left: Eugene City Councilor Emily Semple
Right: Rep. Marty Wilde in red jacket
Special thanks go to Councilor Semple, Representative Wilde, Commissioner Sorenson (letter), Commissioner Berney who emailed to let us know he supports us, and Congressman DeFazio whose response was read out lead at the rally.

See @LaneCoFBC for videos of Councilor Semple and Representative Wilde speaking at the rally point outside of PeaceHealth.

Local Media Coverage

Who else are we grateful to? Our local media. At a time when we are fully ignored by PeaceHealth, we appreciate being able to speak about our concerns publicly. We believe continued attention is warranted. We are concerned PeaceHealth expects the media to move on. Let's hope this does not occur.

The week going into the rally, we appreciated having space in The Eugene Weekly for “Peace Health Shouldn’t Own Birth” and for its retweet of the guest editorial the day of the rally. At the rally, we were pleased to speak with reporters from KLCC, KEZI, KMTR, and KEPW. Coverage here.

Security Barred Our Entrance

Our final thoughts for this post  bring us back to the source of our problem: PeaceHealth leadership. Our purpose for the rally was to present our petition of nearly 10,000 signatures to PeaceHealth leaders. When no one from PeaceHealth met with us at the rally point outside the RiverBend entrance, a small group was sent to go inside for the purpose of providing the petition. This group was barred from entering RiverBend.

Among us were a pregnant mom with a stroller and small children, and another mom with a baby in a carrier. We were met by security outside PeaceHealth’s entrance. After unsuccessful efforts to negotiate our entrance with him, a security manager intervened and permitted our access to the lobby. We were escorted in by security and told we could not take photos. Our request for PeaceHealth leadership to be contacted by security was refused. With no alternative, we presented the community petition to PeaceHealth security. We were reluctantly provided with written confirmation that the petition had been received. Obtaining this receipt required another discussion in which only our unwillingness to leave resulted in being given one. 

Our preference was and remains to be in a proper meeting with PeaceHEalth CEO Mary Kingston to begin the process of reversing the decision to close the Nurse Midwifery Birth Center. Instead, we were told to leave the premises, but not before learning that PeaceHealth leadership had made plans for their PR Manager, and not their CEO, to receive the petition. This is not the approach or presentation described, less than a year ago, in The Register-Guard article introducing CEO Kingston to the community she serves. 


What we need, as soon as possible, is a PeaceHealth RiverBend CEO capable of understanding and rising to the challenge before her, not ignoring it and the people who raise it. With the ongoing support of community members and leaders and our elected representatives, we will continue forward toward honest and transparent discussion. Toward these goals, we leave supporters and interested parties with the following graph created by a Nurse Midwifery Birth Center father. 

Graph using OHA data by Andrew Coury, 2nd generation NMBC parent.
Andrew was born at the NMBC and hopes to welcome the third generation there.

PeaceHealth leaders' public reason for closing the Nurse Midwifery Birth Center is financial, which they attribute to demographic trends; specifically a lower general birth rate and a higher average maternal age. Even if true... a 4 year old demographic trend? Furthermore, it's not true. Average maternal age is 26 in Lane County (source).

What's the real story in the precipitous drop in birth center births between 2014 and 2018? The real reason far outpaced any demographic change in the overall birth rate. Lane County Friends of the Birth Center believes the real reason rests in risk polices imposed on the NMBC, which served to unnecessarily push women into the hospital. See October 2011 on the graph when Sacred Heart in-house OB/GYN care ended and was replaced with a contract for Women’s Care to provide obstetric consultation. Also important to keep in mind is the neglectful PeaceHealth management policies which de-prioritize the Nurse Midwifery Birth Center and make it vulnerable to the kind of moment in which we find ourselves currently.