Preventable Maternal Deaths From Childbirth Much Higher In New York Than National Average!

Birth Injury, Wrongful Death

On April 9, 2010, the NYS Department of Health ended its nine-year partnership with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), an organization that sent teams of doctors and nurses to hospitals to investigate pregnancy-related deaths, according to an Albany Times-Union article. The Department of Health is planning to make reviews of maternal deaths mandatory and is partnering with IPRO, a non-profit group that assesses health care quality, to conduct the reviews.

New York has a maternal mortality rate of 15 deaths per 100,000 live births, significantly higher than the national average of 3.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Since 2001, the NYS Department of Health and ACOG have jointly run the Safe Motherhood Initiative to reduce the number of preventable maternal deaths in New York. The program investigated deaths, analyzed the causes and conducted outreach to train obstetrical staffs on preventing complications. The state eliminated the program’s $280,000 budget as of April 1, 2010.

There are about 60 maternal deaths annually in New York and half are believed to be avoidable. The number of maternal deaths in New York “rival third world countries”, according to the executive director of the New York district of ACOG. Hospitals are required to report maternal deaths to the state, but undergoing ACOG’s external review was voluntary.

For example, Albany Medical Center Hospital did not submit for ACOG review the death of Diane McCabe, 32, who bled to death after a cesarean section at the hospital in September, 2007. Hemorrhaging after cesarean section is one of the most common causes of maternal death, according to the analysis done by the Safe Motherhood investigators. The initiative has published posters and protocols for identifying and treating hemorrhage, and it also recommended that obstetric staff run mock drills to prepare for hemorrhage emergencies. Albany Medical Center Hospital had no record of performing hemorrhage drills and only one nurse recalled participating in a drill.

The Safe Motherhood Initiative reviewed 38 deaths between 2007 and 2009, nine of which occurred in upstate New York. ACOG plans to publish its analysis of the deaths in May, 2010.