June 7, 2021 By Christina Santucci
Several lawmakers are seeking federal funding for renovations at Elmhurst Hospital to improve care for new and expecting parents and to help fight maternal mortality.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand held a press conference with U.S. Reps. Grace Meng and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez outside of the hospital Friday afternoon to advocate for the improvements.
The members of Congress were joined at the event by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, state Sen. Jessica Ramos, Assembly members Catalina Cruz and Jessica González-Rojas as well as officials from Elmhurst Hospital and NYC Health + Hospitals.
Meng and Ocasio-Cortez have submitted a joint request for $3 million to the House Appropriations Committee for funding to renovate the hospital’s obstetrics inpatient facilities, which includes pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care.
“The renovation of Elmhurst’s obstetrical facilities would be a major boost in expanding access to care and ensuring healthier families. We will do all we can to secure these funds,” Meng said in a statement.
The goal of the upgrades would be to provide additional privacy and comfort, which officials said is important to health outcomes and recovery of expecting and new mothers.
“It is imperative to provide equitable maternal care to the working class and immigrant communities surrounding Elmhurst hospital,” Ocasio-Cortez and Meng’s request stated.
Gillibrand said she would submit her own earmark requests shortly, and she also plans to seek funding for Elmhurst Hospital.
“We must continue to make improving and creating equitable maternal care a priority,” she said in a statement.
Pregnancy-related death rates have risen in the United States between 1987 and 2017, and there are stark racial disparities in maternal mortality, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Black women died nationwide at a rate of nearly three and four times that of white and Hispanic/Latina women respectively, according to CDC data from 2014 to 2017.
Meanwhile, a New York City Department of Health report on the city’s 58 pregnancy-associated deaths in 2017 also showed racial disparities – Black women made up 40 percent of those who died, Latina women 28 percent and white women 11 percent that year.
“It is well-established that maternal mortality disproportionately affects Black mothers and mothers of color. Access to equitable resources in our hospitals is an essential step in our committed effort to address this,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said in a statement.
Gillibrand, Meng and Ocasio-Cortez are also pushing for the passage of several bills on the federal level that would fight maternal mortality and address racial disparities in care.
Gillibrand’s Modernizing Obstetric Medicine Standards (MOMS) Act would facilitate the standardization of practices to prevent pregnancy-related deaths and morbidity, which includes health consequences from labor and delivery.
The bill would also establish a new grant program to provide states and hospitals with the resources to help avert maternal death and complications before, during and after childbirth.
She is also sponsoring the Maternal CARE Act, which would direct the National Academy of Medicine to study and recommend ways to reduce racial disparities in maternal health.
The bill would also create two new grant programs – one to recognize and reduce implicit bias and a second to incentivize health care providers to deliver integrated services to pregnant women and new mothers.
Earlier this year, the senator was among seven original co-sponsors of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, a series of 12 bills that seek to address several different issues connected to mothers’ health. For example, the bills seek to improve data collection, support expecting and postpartum mothers who are incarcerated and provide funding to community-based organizations, among other goals.
The House version of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act is co-sponsored by Meng and Ocasio-Cortez as well as fellow U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Gregory Meeks, Hakeem Jeffries and Nydia Velázquez.