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Florida allows doctors to perform C-sections outside of hospitals

Phil Galewitz, KFF Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

Florida has become the first state to allow doctors to perform cesarean sections outside of hospitals, siding with a private equity-owned physicians group that says the change will lower costs and give pregnant women the homier birthing atmosphere that many desire.

But the hospital industry and the nation’s leading obstetricians’ association say that even though some Florida hospitals have closed their maternity wards in recent years, performing C-sections in doctor-run clinics will increase the risks for women and babies when complications arise.

“A pregnant patient that is considered low-risk in one moment can suddenly need lifesaving care in the next,” Cole Greves, an Orlando perinatologist who chairs the Florida chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said in an email to KFF Health News. The new birth clinics, “even with increased regulation, cannot guarantee the level of safety patients would receive within a hospital.”

This spring, a law was enacted allowing “advanced birth centers,” where physicians can deliver babies vaginally or by C-section to women deemed at low risk of complications. Women would be able to stay overnight at the clinics.

Women’s Care Enterprises, a private equity-owned physicians group with locations mostly in Florida along with California and Kentucky, lobbied the state legislature to make the change. BC Partners, a London-based investment firm, bought Women’s Care in 2020.

“We have patients who don’t want to deliver in a hospital, and that breaks our heart,” said Stephen Snow, who recently retired as an OB-GYN with Women’s Care and testified before the Florida Legislature advocating for the change in 2018.

 

Brittany Miller, vice president of strategic initiatives with Women’s Care, said the group would not comment on the issue.

Health experts are leery.

“What this looks like is a poor substitute for quality obstetrical care effectively being billed as something that gives people more choices,” said Alice Abernathy, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. “This feels like a bad band-aid on a chronic issue that will make outcomes worse rather than better,” Abernathy said.

Nearly one-third of U.S. births occur via C-section, the surgical delivery of a baby through an incision in the mother’s abdomen and uterus. Generally, doctors use the procedure when they believe it is safer than vaginal delivery for the parent, the baby, or both. Such medical decisions can take place months before birth, or in an emergency.

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©2024 KFF Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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