Supporters hold rally for midwife who lost her contract

March 20, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A sign on the wall of Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School in Chambersburg said, "We're having a Mid Wife Crisis."

Karen Brindle, a certified nurse-midwife who operates Chambersburg Midwifery Services, lost her contract with Keystone Health Services on Wednesday, leaving 65 pregnant women without obstetric care.

Among them was Lori Sandoval, who is 36 weeks pregnant with her second child.

"I got shafted," she said at a rally Saturday. "I hope I can have (Karen) deliver my son." She switched to a male obstetrician after the closing of Brindle's office was announced.


Chambersburg resident Tina Miller, whose first child is due in June, said she is "outraged and upset. I feel abandoned, and it's not Karen's fault. It's what's going on with politics. I couldn't care less about politics. I'm 27 weeks pregnant, and to find equivalent care, I'd have to go to Carlisle or Waynesboro."

About 100 mothers and babies, a few fathers and lots of young children wearing shirts reading "Delivered by Karen" attended the rally to support Brindle. One father wore a shirt that read "Karen Let Me Cut the Cord."

An organization quickly formed this week in response to the loss of Brindle's contract. Mothers and Others for Midwifery (M.O.M.-PA) has received hundreds of letters, e-mails and phone calls in support of Brindle, according to Kathy Cooper, vice president of the group.

Brindle has delivered about 800 babies, with only a 7.7 percent Caesarean section rate. She formerly worked in the Keystone practice, and started her own practice four years ago.

"Women in this area were supported by Karen for years," Cooper said. "We are outraged by the contract glitch. She is a kind, caring, experienced and compassionate midwife.

"One of the key issues is the question of prescriptive privileges. This has been presented to us as not being able to be solved. But it can be solved. Otherwise, midwives all over the state would not be able to practice for the same reason."

Brindle's 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," Brindle said.

Pennsylvania is one of two states that does not grant prescriptive privileges to nurse-midwives.

Brindle's practice included preconception examinations, prenatal and postpartum care, and gynecological and well-woman care. She had about 500 patients, from adolescents through senior citizens.

"Certified nurse-midwives are permitted to practice independently in Pennsylvania," Brindle said. "The Medical Practice Act in Pennsylvania states that, 'If the collaborating physician intends to authorize the midwife to relay to other health-care providers medical regimens prescribed by the physician, including drug regimens, that authority, as well as the prescribed regimens, shall be set forth in the collaborative agreement.'"

Several of Brindle's clients spoke emotionally during the rally, all of them recalling how supportive she was during their pregnancies, labor and delivery. Some called her an angel. Many said that no male doctor would have spent as much time with them and calmed their fears the way Brindle did.

Brindle, who stepped to the lectern to a standing ovation, said she was "overwhelmed and humbled" by the show of support.

Brindle said her next step depends on how Keystone responds to the women who have asked them to reconsider her contract termination.

"Keystone's legal counsel has advised them that this prescriptive issue cannot be resolved," she said.

Organizers encouraged Brindle's supporters to send letters and e-mails to their state representatives and to sign a petition supporting Brindle.

M.O.M.-PA President Stephanie Stumbaugh may be reached at 717-262-2099 or by e-mail at M.O.M.-PA Secretary Joey Reineman may be e-mailed at

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