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Closure Of Washington D.C. Maternity Ward Is Creating Difficulties For Many Mothers

Many expectant mothers are finding very limited access to maternity care and delivery services in the greater Washington D.C. area. In 2017, both the Providence Hospital and United Medical Center (UMC) stopped offering prenatal care and maternity services. Many mothers now have to travel to Medstar Washington Hospital for these services.

The two closures were the result of insufficient safety protocols and failing to meet the current standards of medical practice. The UMC shutdown was ordered by the Department of Health & Human Services after a rash of costly incidents of medical malpractice. Another problem locally is the Washington Hospital Center is not presently taking three Medicaid options.

Lack of Available Care

In the meanwhile, the remaining hospital maternity departments in the region are struggling to accommodate the additional volume of pregnant patients. Many pregnant women are finding it difficult to find open appointment times and medical providers who are available for taking on new patients. The Atlantic recently called the problem a “crisis” and says it has the hardest impact on those with low incomes.

Home Care Option

One potential option would be to consider in-home prenatal visits, particularly for mothers who are lacking adequate transportation. These visits could be completed by a nurse midwife to conduct urine testing, detecting heart rate, and other critical prenatal functions. One problem that may persist with this or other improvements is a lack of continuity in the care. Far too many mothers do not receive care from the same medical provider throughout the pregnancy, which results in less effective, “fragmented” care.

Community of Hope Facility

One positive happening in the region has been the opening of the Community of Hope Conway Health & Resource Center on the southeast side of D.C. It is a medical facility now capable of delivering prenatal and maternity services. The one drawback is that the facility is not yet able to provide services for those pregnancies that are deemed to be “high-risk”.

The facility is 50,000 square feet and offers a wide variety of services including psychological and dental care. Mayor Muriel Bowser feels the opening is a positive measure and she is cognizant of the lack of available care in the region. She recently held a summit that specifically addressed maternal health to generate ideas and feedback.

Current Data

  • Over 90% of pregnant women have some health problems (complications)
  • Over 50,000 pregnant mothers experience an aneurysm, respiratory problems, or heart-related problems annually
  • Washington D.C. has a teen birth rate of approximately 28.4% and roughly 10,000 unintentional pregnancies each year

Washington D.C. Health Start Program

The D.C. Healthy Start program is an initiative that is centered on improving the services available to women with children under two-years-old. It is funded by the federal government and managed by the Health Resources & Service Administration. The goal of the organization is largely to support pregnant women and those who have recently delivered a baby. The program is working to improve access to quality care in the region and to educate the community about the importance of prenatal care.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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