U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is looking to provide funding to hospitals to help lower the mortality rate among mothers during childbirth — a trend that is on the rise across the state.
The senator announced in a teleconference last Tuesday legislation that would provide funding to states and hospitals to develop and implement standardized maternal safety practices. The bill would provide $40 million a year for five years for this purpose.
“Our state has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, and our country has the highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world,” Gillibrand said. “This is completely unacceptable and largely avoidable, and it’s a crisis that we can and must solve now.”
The state is ranked 30th in the country in maternal mortality in 2018 with a rate of 20.6 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to data from America’s Health Rankings, which assesses the nation’s health annually on a state-by-state basis. Maternal mortality rates have increased 60 percent over the last decade.
“Many hospitals are not equipped or trained to handle an emergency when it arises,” Gillibrand said. “I think most hospitals want to lower their maternal mortality rates. So, I expect they will want this funding.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 60 percent of maternal complications and deaths during childbirth are caused by preventable symptoms such as hemorrhaging and preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys, according to the Mayo Clinic website.
“In recent years, we have witnessed a national awakening to the persistent tragedy of maternal mortality in the United States,” said Barbara Laur, interim CEO of the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs. “At the same time, several exciting initiatives are underway to prioritize interventions we know will help save women’s lives.”
Three other bills are floating in the Senate:
n The Maternity Care Act, which is meant to address racial disparities in maternal health outcomes.
n The Maternal Health Accountability Act, which would direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a program to provide grants to states to review pregnancy-related and pregnancy-associated deaths, establish and sustain a maternal mortality review committee to review relevant information and ensure that the state Department of Health develops a plan for ongoing health care provider education.
n The Quality Care for Moms and Babies Act, which would identify and publish a set of maternal and infant quality measures for women and children, establish a maternal and infant quality measurement program; and establish an online clearinghouse of resources for entities working to improve maternity and infant-care quality.
“I think all these bills complement each other,” Gillibrand said. “I am hoping to have this bill voted on by the end of the year. I think once more members of Congress become more aware of the problem we will have widespread support.”