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Women plan to rally on midwife's behalf

March 18, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The baby girl Karen Brindle delivered Wednesday might have been her last as the certified nurse midwife's contract with Keystone Health Center expired at the end of that day.

Supporters of Brindle, who operates Chambersburg Midwifery Services, will hold a rally on Saturday in an effort to get Keystone to renew the agreement.

"She had 60 expectant mothers under her care," Steph Stumbaugh of Chambersburg said Thursday. Stumbaugh, whose 13-week-old and 17-month-old children were delivered by Brindle, said many of those pregnant women, parents and others will be at the 2 p.m. rally at Thaddaeus Stevens Elementary School at 800 Hollywell Ave.

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"We want the community to be aware that women should have a choice. When you're pregnant, you're not sick" and do not necessarily need a doctor, Stumbaugh said.

"Their concern is about prescriptive privilege issues and other liability issues," Brindle said Thursday in her office at 1035 Wayne Ave. Her lapsed agreement with Keystone addressed the prescription issue "in the form of a standing list of prescriptions that could be used for specific medical conditions," she said.

Brindle said she could not write prescriptions, but could get drugs for her patients "based on how it was described in my standing orders." She said it is similar to how nurses dispense medications in a hospital.

Joanne Cochran, the president of Keystone Health, said a law firm specializing in health-care issues was hired several months ago to review its operations.

"They discovered I was out of compliance in my collaborative agreement with Karen Brindle," Cochran said. Keystone was violating regulations because its doctors were "ordering medications for patients they had never seen."

Cochran said Pennsylvania is one of two states that does not grant prescriptive privileges to nurse midwives. Keystone, which employs two midwives who work directly with physicians, wanted to renew the contract, but was unable to find a solution protecting its doctors from possible liability, she said.

"It's a very sad situation and I'm not happy with it ... but I can't jeopardize Keystone," Cochran said.

In 10 years as a midwife, Brindle said she has delivered about 800 babies at Chambersburg Hospital without a malpractice suit. She worked as a midwife in a private practice and then as an employee of Keystone before starting Chambersburg Midwifery Services.

Without a collaborative agreement, Brindle said she cannot practice. She said her practice ranged from preconception examinations and prenatal care to post-partum and gynecological care.

Midwives must complete a course of study and be certified and licensed, but need a backup obstetrician to practice safely.

"Even a low-risk pregnancy can have complications," she said.

Stumbaugh said it was her opinion that "They want her patients." Otherwise, Keystone would find a way to renew the contract, she said.

Stumbaugh also wants state law changed to allow midwives to prescribe drugs.

"If Karen is breaking the law, then every midwife in Pennsylvania is breaking the law," she said.

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