Troy mayor in contact with governor’s office, federal leaders over birth center closure

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Women across the Capital Region spoke up against the closure of Burdett Birth Center at Samaritan Hospital as Troy’s mayor talks to leaders in Congress and the governor’s office to try to prevent the closure.

A rally happened Tuesday at the YWCA in Troy. It was organized by local doulas, who say the center is vital to women’s health in the area.

Burdett is Rensselaer County’s only birth center. St. Peter’s Health Partners said last week it cannot afford to keep the center open.

Many women walk or take the bus to get care, former leaders at Burdett said. Taking away this option in a low-income community will put lives in danger, leaders said.

As former Director of Midwifery Services at Burdett Birth Center, Margaret Holcomb dedicated her career to helping women safely welcome their babies into the world.

Women in the area always had a local option for delivery, Holcomb said.

“There’s been an OB unit in Troy since the early 20th century, so this would be a big loss. A very big loss,” she said.

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Holcomb retired in October 2022. She said it would be tough to watch Rensselaer County’s only OB unit disappear.

“It’s a high Medicaid population, it’s a high amount of uninsured, so it’s definitely a vulnerable population, and that’s what we specialize in,” she explained.

The city of Troy warned last week that the closure would affect the city’s Black women the most. The city said about one in five of its families are black.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control in 2021 shows the maternal mortality rate for Black women in the United States was 69.9 deaths out of 100,000 births. That’s 2.6 times the rate for white women.

A study by the Commonwealth Fund in 2022 found women in the U.S. had the highest maternal mortality rate when compared with women in 10 other wealthy countries. Many women studied cited difficulty paying for and finding care.

However, it’s not just Troy left without a nearby birth center. Closing Burdett would add extra time for women in rural Rensselaer County, Troy Mayor Patrick Madden said.

“It sends people from almost the Massachusetts and Vermont lines looking for care in Albany, and it adds a lot of time to that commute,” Madden said. “It’s going to add to an emergency response for childbirth, which is going to tie up ambulances, and people are going to be delivering in ambulances or in parking lots at hospitals. That’s not an acceptable alternative. We should be embarrassed by that as a country.”

It’s a sign of the health care system breaking down, strained by staffing issues, Madden said.

He called on state and federal officials to intervene – meeting with the offices of Gov. Kathy Hochul and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand this week.

“No institution can be expected to run in a deficit year after year. We need to start sitting around the table and figuring out how we’re going to be better at serving the healthcare needs of our communities,” he said.

As those conversations continue, Madden asked people who live in Troy to write to his office about the impact of the closure.

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The New York State Department of Health still needs to approve the closure. NewsChannel 13 reached out to ask the agency when a decision is expected. The DOH had not yet received a closure plan from St. Peter’s Health Partners, a spokesperson said.