‘We just really feel at a loss’: Midwives react to SSM Heath ending Midwifery Program

MADISON, Wis. — SSM Health announced plans last week to discontinue its Midwifery Program after more than three years of service, leaving four nurse midwives out of a job come the new year.

The four learned of the decision Thursday, one day before patients were notified, and just three months before the program is set to end.

Learning she could no longer do the job she loved was a surprise for Jessica Vaughan, a Certified Nurse Midwife at SSM Health.

“We had no idea that the program was on the chopping block,” Vaughan said. 

In an email sent to employees by SSM Wisconsin’s Regional President Matt Hanley, staff were notified the decision was made because despite high patient satisfaction the program is unsustainable.

In a statement shared with News 3 Now, SSM Health officials also said the choice was made after extensive review.

“It was discovered that many women who choose midwifery care choose to deliver their babies with community-based midwives,” it reads. “Because of these trends we are not seeing the number of births needed to sustain the current model of employing midwives within the SSM Health Women’s and Newborn’s program.”

RELATED: SSM Health to end Midwifery Program in Madison

However, according to Vaughan, this evaluation was completed without the input of the women who run the program.

“We were never included in any conversations about the sustainability of this program,” Vaughan said. 

A nurse midwife herself, Emily Beaman was hired to start the practice at SSM Health three years ago, and she said the biggest concern she and her team has right now is for their patients.

“We just really feel at a loss for our women and for the community that we serve and wondering just–I guess we just wish that they would continue to have options,” said Beaman. “We think options are really important.”

SSM Health currently has plans to transition those patients to their OBGYN providers, but nurse midwife Amber Latsch said it’s not the same.

“We just have a different model of practice,” she explained. “We do a lot of hands-on, just physical and emotional labor support and our physicians are great but that’s just not something that they really have the ability–like the time to do.”

Now these midwives are left wondering what’s next, but despite the uncertainty they know where their hearts will be–with those in their care.

“We’ll be there as long as they let us be there,” Beaman said. “We want to be there.”

Since its founding, Beaman said SSM’s Midwifery Program has had over 300 births in their practice; the program’s last day is set for Dec 31.

A protest against the system’s decision is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 10 outside SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital, according to Facebook.

In a statement sent to News 3 Now on Monday, SSM thanked community members for reaching out regarding the changes and said it values the feedback.

“The intention behind these changes is not to limit access to care,” the statement said. “We recognize that midwifery care is an important, valuable service for our patients who seek high-quality, low intervention care before, during and after pregnancy. We are truly grateful to our midwifery team for the exceptional, present care they have provided to patients over the past three years.”

SSM said in-hospital births through the midwifery program have accounted for less than 5% of the system’s total deliveries in the Madison market, and clarified that it will identify a “new model” that will maintain access to midwifery births at St. Mary’s Hospital and for patients and Dean Health Plan members.

“As we work towards this new model, we look forward to having meaningful conversations with our community-based midwifery providers,” the statement read. “We will share more details around our revised midwifery care model once they are finalized.”