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Fight Waged Over Moms’ Hospital Stays

Spokane nurses see it again and again: exhausted women whisked out the hospital door within a day of giving birth.

“There’s been a lot of moms we push out to the car who are still holding their tummies,” said Carol Torpey, nurse manager at Deaconess Women’s and Children’s Center.

Often, the women are angry - at the hospital, the nurses and the insurance company forcing them to go.

“Others are feeling very overwhelmed: Why did you push me out the door? Why do you make me leave?” said Nancy Gaunt, nursing supervisor at Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Attitudes like these are fueling a battle among state lawmakers over a bill to allow new moms to stay in hospital beds longer. The House is expected to vote on the proposal today.

Insurance companies are lobbying hard against the bill, SB6120, which requires them to let women stay in the hospital for up to two days after vaginal births and up to four days after Caesarean sections.

“It’ll cost more,” warned Basil Badley, lobbyist for Health Insurance Association of America. “It does go against the idea of keeping health care costs down.”

But bill supporters paint the debate as a fight for women’s rights, complained Badley. Phrases such as “the drive-by baby bill” don’t help, he said.

Even Sen. John Moyer, a Spokane obstetrician, worried the bill would prompt hospitals to keep all new mothers two to four days - even when they could leave sooner.

Republican Moyer successfully pushed for an amendment to leave the final decision to the doctor. And that’s when the Senate unanimously approved the bill.

“We don’t feel clinical sovereignty should be in the hands of the insurer or the HMO (health maintenance organization),” said Moyer.

Despite the bill’s popularity in the Senate, Sen. Kevin Quigley, D-Lake Stevens, said he worries House Health Care Committee Chairman Phil Dyer, R-Issaquah, will gut the bill today.

Quigley said Dyer wants to delete parts of the bill calling for the 48- and 96-hour hospital stays.

Dyer did not return four telephone calls for comment.

In Spokane, most mothers leave maternity wards within 24 hours after vaginal deliveries and 72 hours after Caesarean sections, hospital officials say.

Some mothers do well, nurses said, especially those who know how to take care of a baby and have relatives and friends willing to help.

Torpey, the Deaconess nurse, said many women who’ve just given birth are in good condition but exhausted.

“If you’ve had a long labor and are very, very tired, it’s hard to go home.” Torpey said.

It’s especially tough for women who are having trouble breastfeeding or who have other small children to care for, nurses said.

“It’d be nice to have a bill like this so we could give those people who need extra time, extra time,” said Gaunt.

, DataTimes


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