Feb. 27, 2002 – Based on a recommendation from the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center Advisory Committee, the Roy L. Schneider Hospital Board of Trustees has agreed that it is not feasible to develop a birthing center at the health center at this time.
Health center administrator Erica McDonald told the advisory committee at a meeting on Wednesday that the trustees made their decision in early February, for several reasons.
"The means are not there to fund this thing," advisory committee member Jose Penn said.
There is strong sentiment in the community about having babies born on St. John. However, a 1999 study by Higman Consultants determined that only about 20 women a year were likely to give birth at Myrah Keating Smith if there were a birthing center there, McDonald said.
And, she said, should a medical emergency arise during what was expected to be a routine delivery, there would be no quick way to transport the patient to Schneider Hospital. "We don't have a helicopter," she noted, and the patient would have to be taken to St. Thomas on the hospital boat Star of Life.
Further, Myrah Keating Smith would have to hire additional staff such as doctors trained in obstetrics, gynecology and anesthesiology, along with additional equipment. The health center does not have the financial resources to do this. Currently, the V.I. government funds the salaries of health center personnel while the rest of the budget depends on revenues.
McDonald said typically four or five residents a year do give birth at Myrah Keating Smith — because they arrive too far into labor to be transported to St. Thomas.
At least one person at the meeting was piqued at the Schneider board's decision. Aubrey Bridgewater, an assistant to Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd, said the senator wants the birthing center and suggested that legislation mandating it might be the way to proceed. But Administrator Julien Harley, an advisory committee member, said even though a birthing center might be on the books, there was no guarantee it would happen.
McDonald also reported that the hospital board has approved plans for a study to determine if it is practical to place kidney dialysis units at Myrah Keating Smith. About half a dozen St. John residents now go to Schneider Hospital for treatment, she said.
Meanwhile, McDonald said, the health center's gross revenues are continuing to rise thanks to timely billing. "Every month that you don't bill, you reduce the ability to collect," she said. Gross revenues for last month were $72,340, compared to $46,176 in January 2001. Those for February to date stand at $36,801, up from $33,378 in 2001.


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