Stop-gap measure gives birthing centers room to breathe

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) -- After more than a year of debates with lawmakers and health department officials, the Charleston Birth Place has one more chance to get in compliance with state regulations.

Gov. Nikki Haley approved a stop-gap measure which would be good through July 2015.

Supporters say this buys them enough time to revise the state's birth center regulations.

According to the Department of Health and Environmental Control, the agency requires doctors to be on-call, not on-site during hours of operation. According to DHEC's Jim Beasley during an interview last December, on-call means a physician must be reached and at the birthing center in 30 minutes, to assist during hours of operation, if needed.

Beasley said at the time this is not a new law or regulation.

But officials at Charleston Birth Place argue that regulation could mean too much wasted time in an emergency when there is a hospital just minutes away.

Owner Lesley Rathbun says finding a compromise will be a big job.

"All the stakeholders have agreed to a committee and meet together to look at this issue to come up with a collaborative language that will be beneficial to all," she said. "And by that I mean the hospitals, the doctors, the midwives, consumers, DHEC, regulators, legislators -- anybody who has a stake in this issue."

Rathbun says the birthing center just wants to get back to the business of "catching babies" and helping mothers.