Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso has allocated $11 million in capital funds for a new “state-of-the-art” birthing center at NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull Hospital in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“Regardless of intent or passion, one person cannot embrace lasting solutions without the support of a small, equally passionate army with the expertise to drive these impactful changes,” Reynoso said during of the July 19 funding announcement. “I have found a true partner in my fight against inequities in maternal mortality in our city’s public health system. »
The beep is investing its entire $45 million capital budget into maternal health care services at three different public hospitals in Brooklyn, and Woodhull is just the first to receive the funds. Maternal mortality has been a long-standing issue for Reynoso, who first sponsored legislation to improve maternal health outcomes while serving on the New York City Council and assembled a Maternal Health Working Group four months after the start of his term as borough president.
Black births in New York are significantly more likely to die or have serious health problems due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth than their white counterparts. Quality healthcare is often inaccessible to families, and many people report being ignored or discriminated against by hospitals and healthcare workers.
Brooklyn had the second highest birth rate in the five boroughs in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, with 89.7 pregnancies per 1,000 women of childbearing age, and recorded the highest number of deaths – 15 – attributed to pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum complications. East New York and Brownsville had some of the highest infant mortality rates of any neighborhood in New York, and Brooklyn as a whole had an infant mortality rate of 6.7%, or 1,300 deaths.
Two years ago Sha-Asia Semple, 26, died during childbirth in Woodhull, although her baby survived an emergency Caesarean section. Last spring, THE CITY reported that the anesthetist who treated Semple, Dr. Dmitry Anatolevich Shelchkov, was under investigation for not following recommended protocols.
In addition to funding the new birthing center, the $11 million will be used to renovate six existing labor and delivery rooms and upgrade triage rooms and the post-anesthesia care unit. The new birth center will include larger operating rooms for cesarean births and an innovative obstetrics simulation lab.
“[Reynoso] has often spoken not only about how he views the facilities, but also about the benefits of the shared decision-making model of integrative midwifery and medical care which he hopes will continue to be used at Woodhull and in other spaces,” said Helena Grant, director of midwifery at Woodhull. “We share her vision for the community of Woodhull and know that this contribution will empower those giving birth to take greater and more positive ownership of their health, pregnancy and outcomes.”
More than 1,000 babies were delivered in Woodhull in 2021, according to city data. The first hospital in the borough to be designated “baby-friendly,” meaning it follows guidelines that promote mother-baby bonding and breastfeeding after birth, Woodhull launched its family-centered C-section Birth program earlier this year and has a particularly low rate of cesarean births.
Local council members Chi Ossé and Jennifer Gutiérrez and council chair Adrienne Adams have also contributed a total of nearly $700,000 towards medical equipment upgrades in Woodhull.
“As we fight for equity in this city, investing in the spaces that keep black and brown women healthy and promote real preventative care must be at the forefront,” Gutiérrez said in a statement. “A state-of-the-art birthing center in Woodhull will make a profound difference in the lives of our community and make huge strides in the fight against maternal mortality. I recently gave birth in Woodhull, so I know firsthand how much their patients, midwives, nurses and doctors will benefit from this important investment.