Community advocates who have been pushing for birthing services to return to North Central Bronx Hospital for months are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
At a recent public forum, hosptial officials spoke of plans for a state inspection on September 22, with hopes of reopening the maternity ward near the end of September, said community member and activist Eileen Markey.
While she understands that September 22 is not a reopening date, Markey said she and the other community organizers who have been putting pressure on the hospital for months were thrilled by the announcement.
“This is the strongest, most definite date we’ve gotten in this year-long process,” she said.
Community members were frustrated with the lack of communication from hospital management regarding the closure and plans for reopening ater the labor and delivery unit abruptly closed in August 2013, Markey said. Advocates began putting pressure on the hospital to bring back the maternity ward, and to communicate better about the ongoing situation.
But since recent meetings between the community and hospital officials have made the the center’s commitment to reopening the unit clear, the tone has shifted.
“We’ve moved from confrontation to collaboration,” said Markey.
The fight to bring back the unit has involved not only community members but nurses, midwives, and the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.
The group got involved because it saw the closure as a matter of health injustice, with the cut to services happening in an underserved community, said Sascha Murillo, a community organizer for New York Lawyers.
Now that the plans for reopening are a bit more clear, Murillo said the next step is to work with the hospital on patient outreach, in order to bring in enough patients for the unit to be successful in the long term.
“It’s not over once it’s open,” said Murillo.
While they know there is still a lot of hard work ahead, Markey said that the advocates were also happy to hear that the hospital has been hiring midwives to restore the labor and delivery unit to it’s original midwifery-centered model.
“It’s one of the things that makes it unique,” said Markey. “It’s part of the reason we were so passionate about the unit.”
Officials at the forum said they intend to hire more midwives for the unit than there was when it closed, said Murillo.
A spokesman from North Central did not respond to specific questions about staffing or the state inspection, but said the hospital hoped to continue its collaboration with residents.
“We continue to work with our partners in the community and our colleagues in government to establish a first-rate labor and delivery service to Bronx residents. All parties share the same goal, to return this service as soon as it’s both possible and safe.”