Hampshire OB/GYN Announces Discontinuation to Nurse Midwifery at Births [UPDATE]


April 5th, 2007

Dear Parent Support Community,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Childbirth Center at Cooley Dickinson Hospital to inform you of a recent development and to request your support. Hampshire OB/GYN sent a letter to its families on Tuesday, April 3 that outlined their decision to discontinue nurse midwifery (CNM) services at births as of June 15. They will continue to offer nurse midwifery care during prenatal and postnatal office visits and for gynecological visits. Hampshire OB/GYN is the only obstetrical practice affiliated with the hospital that currently provides CNM assisted births. We are working to further understand the decision made by Hampshire OB/GYN and to create a response plan to their decision.

Cooley Dickinson Hospital (CDH) continues to value the option of CNM assisted births for families who choose to give birth with us. We have been receiving emails, phone calls and news through the grapevine that families are angry with CDH for discontinuing this service. Please assist the community with whom you work to understand that this was not a decision made by the Childbirth Center. There is a difference between a service that is provided (funded) by the Hospital as compared with a service provided by an obstetrical service within the hospital setting. Hampshire OB/GYN has been providing this valuable service to families for many years within the setting of the Childbirth Center.

If you work directly with families who may be giving birth after June 15 and are using the Hampshire OB/GYN midwifery service, encourage them to discuss their options with the practice and express their feelings about the decision.

If your organization and/or the community with whom you work would like to respond proactively, it would be helpful for us to receive letters of support for the continued option of nurse midwifery services offered for women giving birth at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Letters may be sent to the attention of the following persons:

Craig Melin, CEO
Carolyn Szafranski, Childbirth Center Director
Mailing address:
Cooley Dickinson Hospital
30 Locust Street
P.O. Box 5001
Northampton, MA 01061-5001

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. And thank you for your support.

Sincerely yours,

Maria T.Curtin-McKenna
Parent Education Coordinator

UPDATE: April 10th, 2007

Dear Parent Support Community,

Thank you for your efforts to help inform the community about Hampshire OB/GYN’s recent decision regarding nurse midwife assisted births. The power of the internet is truly astounding! The article in the weekend issue of the Gazette may have explained a bit more. The Hospital administration is working to understand more in depth the reasons before addressing solutions. I’ve been told that a representative of the Hospital will be issuing a response to the community in some form within a week.

The community’s response has been heartening, positive and supportive. Letters are coming in from families who speak of their personal experiences with the midwives. If people are wondering why a letter of support would be helpful, here is an excerpt from an email I sent to the Northampton Parents Center:

“…to clarify what letters of support would do. Sometimes a letter of support means that you are writing to convince someone of something that they don’t want to do. In this case, the Hospital does not need convincing. Craig Melon (CEO) and Carolyn Szafranski (Childbirth Center Director) already know and believe that nurse midwifery assisted births are an important option for women and their families. Letters of support addressed to them are needed to back them up as they work towards a yet undefined alternative. Letters of support are valuable when they are written from the hearts of community members who have personal experience with nurse midwives or who understand the need for options. Letters from agency professionals are also valuable because they speak for their clients, families, etc with whom they work…”

I’ve spoken with many people this past week, primarily listening and helping inform people about the relationship between Cooley Dickinson Hospital and its medical practitioners. The relationship is confusing for many people. Contributing to the confusion is the fact that all hospitals do not function in the same way. Most people assume that the doctors/midwives, surgeons, anesthesiologists who practice at Cooley Dickinson Hospital are all employed by the Hospital. They are not. They are private physicians with medical clearance and privileges to practice here. When a person receives care while in the hospital from their physician, midwife, anesthesiologist, or surgeon, that physician will bill the person or insurance company for their time. *

If you are fielding questions from families and/or have questions of your own, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you again for all your support. I’ll continue to keep you informed.

Best wishes,


*[2 exceptions to this: Our emergency room doctors are employed by the hospital. There are also a few doctors called “hospitalists” who are employed by the hospital to provide round-the-clock coverage for in-patients. They do not have private practices in the community.]

UPDATE: MAY 18, 2007

Hello everyone,

Many of you may have seen last week’s Gazette article with a statement by Cooley Dickinson Hospital administration in support of a continuation of midwifery services. The administration is actively working to determine a solution that will honor the needs of families. As I learn more, I will continue to share it with you.

The letters of support that were received here were incredible. There are probably many times when you have been asked to write a letter of support for a particular issue – and were given a standard or suggested format that you could use. There was nothing standard or formatted about these letters. They were written from people’s hearts. All were balanced and supportive of both midwifery and the Hospital. It was more than we hoped for. Thank you very much if you wrote a letter and for your willingness to use your network contacts to get the word out. A copy of the thank you letter [is included below, or click here to read letter from CDH].

Best wishes,

Maria T.Curtin-McKenna, ICCE, CIMI
Parent Education Coordinator

Letter from Cooley Dickinson Hospital:

May 11, 2007

In April, Cooley Dickinson Hospital learned of Hampshire OB/GYN’s decision to eliminate nurse midwife-assisted deliveries as part of their menu of services. Hampshire OB/GYN has supported this approach to care and provided this valued service for more than 12 years to women and families living in the Pioneer Valley. For Cooley Dickinson, this announcement has meant a sudden transition in the hospital’s ability to offer midwifery care to our expectant families. As of June 15, midwives from Hampshire OB/GYN will no longer be available to offer this service.

Cooley Dickinson has a longstanding commitment to providing a full range of childbirth options to our community and to providing each option exceedingly well. Your letter or e-mail, along with others we received from community members, confirms that continuing to support a full range of childbirth options is the right position for our hospital which is committed to meeting the needs of our community.

To fill what would be an enormous gap in maternity options in the Valley, Cooley Dickinson will step up to ensure that midwifery services will be available at the hospital. We are vested in providing this service at an exceptional level and we are currently evaluating our options.

Our approach to those options is two-fold: To build a superior and lasting childbirth services program and to move as quickly as is safe and possible in the interim to develop a midwife practice that is on the path toward the more lasting model. We understand the need for moving quickly, yet we also want the resulting program to exceed the high standards that you would expect from a hospital that is becoming a national model for delivering high-quality care.

Over the next month we will be working with our medical staff, existing obstetrical physician practices, other providers and our board members to define the right model for midwifery and obstetrical services at Cooley Dickinson Hospital and determine our early steps to effect a transition. We will keep the community informed of our plans as we know this is a critical issue, especially for women who have been under the care of the midwives and for those who are anticipating pregnancy in the near future.

We appreciate your support during this transition and thank you for your commitment to Cooley Dickinson Hospital.


Craig Melin
Cooley Dickinson Hospital

Carol Smith, RNC
Chief Nursing Officer, Chief Operating Officer
Cooley Dickinson Hospital

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