HomeNewsHealth, Science & TechnologyProposed Augusta Birth Center nears decision date despite local hospital opposition

Proposed Augusta Birth Center nears decision date despite local hospital opposition

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Local couple Nicholas and Katie Chubb have spearheaded the efforts to establish a birthing center in Downtown Augusta with the goal of helping women, especially those of moderate to low income, to have a safe and affordable option for delivering a child.

Local hospitals have officially opposed their plans.

The Chubbs filed a certificate of need with the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH), a state organization that will decide before Christmas whether the center can move forward.

The Augusta Birth Center’s certificate of need can be found here. It includes 126 letters of support. The Chubbs have gathered more letters since making the document available.

“The plan of the Augusta Birth Center, our care model, our plans for people with no insurance or no Medicaid; all of the people we approached with that were initially very positive. They were supportive of the idea,” Nicholas Chubb said. “Some folks said they’d been waiting for a birth center to open in this area. Larger areas already have birth centers. Atlanta already has one, for example. Out west, there are multiple birth centers in some cities.”

Augusta University Medical Center and University Health Care System both filed letters of opposition against the Augusta Birth Center’s proposal. Follow the links above to read those letters in full.

AUMC’s letter of opposition argues, among other issues, that the birthing center would be a redundant organization for the area and said the ABC proposal was “inconsistent” and “will not enhance the safety, quality or access to OB services” in the area.

The University Health Care system letter claimed that the ABC “has failed to demonstrate that the project will be financially feasibly in the immediate and long run” and has “failed to provide evidence that it will function as part of the established regionalized system of prenatal care.”

Chubb said the letters of opposition from both networks were “specifically from members of the hospital who are non-medical staff, be it administrative or legal.”

“An attorney working with the hospital looks at whatever issue the hospital sees with our project and writes to the DCH about why they should oppose our project,” Chubb said. “I have full confidence in the DCH to see the merits we have explained in not only our 820-page application but also the 130-plus letters of support that come from individuals, doctors and medical professionals in the community.”

MORE: Construction of Columbia County Hospital Takes Major Step Forward

Chubb said that method of care is the biggest difference between a traditional hospital and a birth center.

“If you’re on a commercial airplane, you have paid a professional to do the operation of flying you from point to point. The pilot is going to be doing everything. If the pilot suddenly starts yelling at you to do a list of things but to also keep your emotions calm, that is traumatic,” he said. “When you have a birth at a hospital, a lot of people like to sign their safety over to a doctor. The doctor then takes over the delivery of the baby. The doctor tells you what to do; when to breathe, when to move, when to push.

“The birth center experience is when a mother comes to a professional midwife, and the midwife says, ‘You are going to be delivering this baby. I am going to be supporting you, but this is your role and your job to do. You are one of billions of women to deliver a baby. We are just here to make the situation as comfortable as possible. We have done this a lot more times than you, and we are just going to watch you for safety and correct anything that needs to be changed for your safety.'”

Chubb said the people supporting the birth center recognize there is a huge difference between those two experiences.

“Let’s say my wife was traumatized by her first birth in a hospital. Let’s say it took 56 hours and ended in C-section where my wife could see her baby but could not move or hold her baby because she was restrained,” Chubb said. “If she makes the decision to have another child, the only option besides a hospital here is driving to a birth center — the closest being two hours away — or have a homebirth with someone who legally cannot practice in Georgia. We want to give a local, non-invasive, natural method and make it affordable and available.”

The birth center and opposing hospital networks were hosted in a hearing by the DCH on Nov. 24. Both parties were able to present their case to a DCH appointee who will either approve or reject the project. That hearing is formatted so that each party makes their case to the appointee, and there are no rebuttals at that time. The appointee simply listens to both parties and then closes the meeting.

After that meeting, the birth center has a 20-day period to respond directly to the department with any additional letters of support or rebuttals to any opposition arguments during the hearing. The appointee will make a decision before Christmas.

“We are not trying to be adversarial toward any hospital bodies in the city. We only ever want to work with them. We badly want to be a part of the healthcare network in this area,” Chubb said. “When we can freely refer someone to a specialist at a hospital or if they have questions that a hospital can answer better than we can, we would love to have that relationship. We have been strongly trying to establish one with them.”

Chubb said that the pandemic has healthcare professionals overworked and exhausted. Introducing the birth center to the area would help to alleviate at least a portion of that by giving expectant mothers somewhere to go besides the busy hospitals.

MORE: Augusta’s Oldest Hospital Closer to Merging with a Major Healthcare Provider

In addition to local residents and medical professionals offering letters of support, Chubb said his staff reached out to state and city leadership to try to garner letters of support to strengthen their case.

The timeline of reaching out to state and city leadership was spread out. For example, Chubb said their initial contact with Mayor Hardie Davis’ office was October 2020.

However, Chubb said that when it came time for some entities to provide their signed support, it “evaporated.”

Two of the leaders Chubb contacted and who initially offered support but ultimately declined to pen letters of support for the ABC were Augusta commissioner Brandon Garrett and Mayor Hardie Davis.

Garrett said, “I told [the Chubbs] I would consider writing a letter of support. I sit on the board for the Richmond County Hospital Authority which oversees parts of University and how it interacts to the city. Mrs. Chubb gave me some information and I went and asked some questions. Something didn’t quite line up and I decided to step back and let the process play out.”

Garrett went on to say that he loved the idea but didn’t fully understand why the Chubbs needed the support of the hospitals to do what they wanted to do.

Petula Burks, chief of staff for Davis, said his office had a very good conversation with the Chubbs and a letter of support from the mayor was “pending.”

“We understand the need and the gap they can fill for this community, especially for women of moderate to low income that need these services,” Burks said. “We applaud the fact that they will serve the entire CSRA. [The Chubbs] will be hearing back from us shortly.”

Nicholas Chubb said that he does anticipate success pertaining to the department’s decision. The Chubbs and their partners will have their answer before Christmas.

Tyler Strong is the Business Editor for The Augusta Press. Reach him at [email protected]

1 COMMENT

  1. Talk about David vs Goliath. The Chubb couple may have their heart in the right place but even though there are at least 3 birthing centers already up and running in Georgia this one seems like a long shot.

    First, a couple of notes to the editor. In paragraph 3, no one files a CON, they file an application for a CON. Similarly, in paragraph 4, the link does not take you to their CON, the state has not yet awarded the Chubbs a CON, but instead takes you to their CON application.

    Secondly, whether you like it or not, Georgia is a CON state and clearly you need to show a need in order to be awarded a CON. To this end, the Chubbs seem to be naive at best in their application and in this very article. Just because you have been asking area residents for months to write a letter of support doesn’t meet the state definition in the law of meeting an unmet need. Nor does the state really care if the Mayor supports the project. Throw in the fact that the Chubbs started a GoFundMe to get initial funding for the application makes me wonder about the actual financial viability of this venture. And all their requests to residents for actual bills from their competitors in order to ensure ‘fair’ pricing might also be construed as price fixing. I probably would not have publicly asked for those, but that is just me.

    Lastly, I sit on the fence on the CON law. The problem is we have it now and unless we do away with it in Atlanta then we must live with it. I can’t see the Chubbs winning this battle if Piedmont and AU want to push it if the state somehow awards them a CON for Christmas. My money is on a denial, especially without the state mandated transfer agreement with a hospital. Just guessing, but I don’t see one coming soon from either of these two. It might not drag out 5 years like the Columbia County Hospital did, but the Chubbs will likely need another GoFundMe for legal fees if either hospital were to appeal an awarded CON. But again, I’d be okay with doing away with the CON law altogether and letting the free market dictate who survives and who doesn’t.

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