An Upstate birthing center’s appeal on the revocation of its license to operate was denied by a state public health committee Monday.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Request for Final Review Committee voted 2-to-1 by conference call not to forward the appeal by Carolina Birth Center.
Carolina Birth Center had asked the DHEC Board to review an order by agency staffers to revoke its license on July 14. In its appeal, Carolina Birth Center accused DHEC of harassing its staff and singling out the Simpsonville natural birth clinic.
Sandy Glenn, a licensed midwife who runs the clinic (also known as Carolina WaterBirth) told South Carolina Radio Network that she had not been aware of the meeting. “I got a letter in the mail telling me by license was being revoked, but I was never told about a meeting,” she said when contacted Monday. She later called back and said her attorney had received a notification about Monday’s meeting, but had not been invited to attend and instead followed the meeting on an internet stream.
In its decision Monday, the committee focused on one particular budget proviso passed by the state legislature this year which requires that a licensed physician be on call at all times and be located no more than 30 minutes from the facility.
Committee Chairman Mark Lutz said the center failed to follow the letter of the law. “I guess one could argue whether or not it’s a valid definition, but that is what the Legislature has given us,” he said during Monday’s meeting. Lutz noted there was physician about 31 miles from the clinic in Clinton, but noted that physician had not guaranteed she would come to the facility.”
In its appeal, the center included letters from a number of medical facilities and doctors in the Greenville-Spartanburg area inviting the center to refer their clients to them. But the committee argued that the center did not have actual written agreements with the physicians or medical facilities.
Through their attorney, the center argued that the law states that all accredited facilities must adhere to the stated rules and regulations involving birthing centers. Carolina Birth Center argued that — because they are not accredited — they fall under the old proviso that does not include the requirement. But Lutz did not agree with that view.
“A non-accredited institution would still need to conform to basically what an accredited organization has to conform to,” Lutz said. “The reasoning would probably be because a further exploration of the definition of on-call would need to mean the same thing as it was explicitly described in the proviso.”
Before casting the lone dissenting vote to move the appeal forward, Lutz admitted that with the discussion of the committee and the legal advice received in a brief executive session he had more questions than answers.
“The organization not being accredited, the mileage requirement, the definition of ‘on-call;’ I have to admit I’m actually a little bit more unsure than I was coming in because it feels like there are a number of questions here.”
Glenn said she is continuing to operate for now. There are still several legal steps she can take, including appealing the decision to the Administrative Law Court. “This is a very long legal process,” she said.