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Midwives may move to new center |

Midwives may move to new center

| Monday, August 20, 2001 12:00 p.m

Allegheny General Hospital closed its midwife center last November, but the midwives never stopped working.

Nine months later, The Midwife Center is closer to stability and independence.

Center representatives hope to announce a new Strip District birthing center location at a benefit concert scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Sept. 7 at Rosebud, 1650 Smallman St., also in the Strip. A spokeswoman for the nonprofit center declined to name the exact location, citing ongoing lease negotiations.

Mary Mervis, a center client and vice president of the board of directors, said organizers expect to raise $15,000 from a Beatles tribute concert featuring the Buzz Poets, B. E. Taylor and 11 other local acts. The center needs to raise between $100,000 and $150,000 for operating costs and a much needed birthing center, according to Mervis.

‘Our ship’s not sinking, but it’s not sailing full-mast,’ Mervis said.

The center provides prenatal and general gynecological care at its current office at 501 E. Ohio St., North Side. Pregnant clients must chose between birthing at Allegheny General or at their home.

Mervis said the center averages between 15 and 20 births each month, down about five births since being eliminated from Allegheny General as part of a cost-cutting maneuver.

‘We believe once we open this new birthing center our client numbers will come back up, our reimbursements will come up and we’ll be in business,’ Mervis said.

About 75 percent of clients choose to give birth at the hospital and therefore pay fees to Allegheny General that would be paid to the center.

‘Basically, what we’re doing now is operating a business and only getting paid for half of it. Once we open a center, we’ll get paid for all of it,’ Mervis said.

The midwives worked without pay from July through December. Former clients established a board of directors and filled attorney, accounting and other positions for the center.

‘The loyalty of our clients has really kept us going – just hearing from them how much they want us to keep going,’ said Nancy Niemczyk, a midwife with the center for more than six years.

To that end, hard work was augmented by clients banding together with the midwives.

In the months after the termination, they raised about $45,000 from fund-raisers – including a Rusted Root concert – that Mervis credits with sustaining the center.

Original plans to purchase the Aeberlie Building at North Avenue and Sandusky Street near the hospital needed more than $1 million and three years to come to fruition.

‘We realized we can’t raise that much money in that little time before the center starts suffering financially,’ Mervis said.

She added that the Aeberlie might be a future project, but that it would have provided more space than necessary. The proposed Strip District office would give the center about 5,000 square feet – 1,500 more than at the hospital offices.

Niemczyk said each room in the new center will have a queen size bed, Jacuzzi and kitchen.

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