Rally planned at DeKalb County Hospital after Parkview announced closure of birthing center

Published: Aug. 31, 2023 at 5:35 PM EDT
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DEKALB COUNTY, Ind. (WPTA) - On Tuesday, Parkview Health leaders announced it would be closing down labor and delivery services in two rural communities, DeKalb and LaGrange counties. The news came as a shock to hospital staff, the community, and women who are now scrambling to find a new place to give birth, some just weeks away from their due date.

BACKGROUND: Parkview announces closure of DeKalb, LaGrange birthing centers

“It’s hard to understand why Parkview is making this move,” Michelle Gresham said. “A lot of us are struggling to understand.”

For nearly a decade, Michelle Gresham has been an independent doula and birth photographer, capturing the first moments of a baby’s life and helping the moms along the way. She runs Labor of Love Indiana.

She says one of the most requested and unique birthing centers in Northeast Indiana is located at Parkview DeKalb County Hospital.

“Birth at DeKalb, I always describe it in a way that it is as close to a home and birth center environment as you can get,” Gresham said. “That’s why a lot of these women seek it out. It’s so special and so unique I’ve never seen a hospital birth like it outside of DeKalb.”

But now, Gresham is helping deliver news to her clients she never thought she’d have to give: that starting mid-September, DeKalb County Hospital will no longer be an option for labor and delivery.

“Women and families are outraged,” Gresham said. “We are outraged. Birth workers are outraged.”

In a statement sent to 21Alive, a spokesperson says Parkview will enhance prenatal and postnatal care in the communities that still offer such services.

Hospital leaders say they have already begun contacting expecting mothers to transition their care plans to nearby Parkview Family Birthing Centers. All workers will be offered similar roles within the health system, officials say.

Gresham, who also gave birth to five of her kids in DeKalb, says the community is losing an asset. She says that DeKalb has the lowest c-section rate in the area and is the only local hospital with whirlpool tubs for water births. DeKalb also takes Medicaid, which Gresham says most free-standing birth centers don’t accept.

She also believes the closure will be a disservice to the community, limiting resources to expecting mothers who can’t make the drive to a Fort Wayne hospital because of the distance, quick labor, or who are financially unable to make the drive.

“I think of being in these women’s shoes and I am heartbroken for them, and they are heartbroken because they don’t want to go anywhere else,” Gresham said. “They want to be born at DeKalb where they feel safe, they feel heard, they feel they can trust their midwives who are with them through labor and birth and postpartum.”

Gresham is part of a moment who are planning to hold a support rally for the birthing hospital.

The rally will be held Thursday, Sept. 7, outside of DeKalb County Hospital. Starting at noon, organizers say they will rally behind the midwives and OB nurses. They are encouraging everyone to attend.