Doctors, nurse midwives and lay midwives will have nine months to discuss reform of rules regulating home births in Hawaii, based on proposed amendments to several measures before the state Legislature this session.
Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, Ka‘u, said the Senate Health Committee will change the measures, including Senate Bill 2070, to allow for convening a task force before any new laws are enacted. The committee heard testimony on SB 2070 Monday evening, during a six-hour hearing that covered a variety of bills. The meeting ended without a quorum, but Green said he expected to move the task force amendment forward at a hearing today.
“It was a very valuable discussion,” Green said. “It was kind of a victory for everyone. These groups haven’t spoken to each other in more than a decade.”
People offered emotional testimony about safe home deliveries and situations in which babies died, Green said. But despite starting positions which seemed to be far apart, the groups did offer testimony that included common ground, he added.
“I decided it wouldn’t be in anyone’s interest to pass a bill that doesn’t have widespread support,” he said, reiterating his support for home births. “I just want them to be safe for mom and baby.”
The task force, once approved, will need to bring its recommendations to the next legislative session.
Green said he expects another of his bills, Senate Bill 3064, to move out of the committee today. That measure sets up a framework to allow private, nonprofit hospitals to partner with Hawaii Health Systems Corp. hospitals, including Kona Community Hospital and Hilo Medical Center.
Ali Bairos, who is chairman of the West Hawaii Regional Board, which governs Kona Community Hospital, noted the widespread support for the measure among all the HHSC regions. Once the bill is passed, he said, “then begins the huge issue of sorting it out, who is a good partner?”
Green’s bill lays out a few parameters, including a hospital system that has been operating in Hawaii since at least 2000. Bairos said he does have some concerns about those specifics.
“Any kind of limitation at this point is premature,” Bairos said. “We want the best partner. This whole thing is about increasing our options.”
He said an out-of-state organization may someday have interest in Hawaii’s hospitals and he wouldn’t want to prevent a potentially beneficial partnership just because that organization isn’t operating here now.
Green crafted the bill to include some of the safety measures critics of any plan to create a public-private partnership for the hospitals, which are sometimes referred to as safety net hospitals, have raised. In addition to wanting partners that already operate within the state, the bill requires the nonprofit partner to honor existing employee contracts and maintain or increase the level of service offered by the HHSC facilities with which it would work.
A bill calling for labels indicating the use of genetically modified organisms in products, will also likely advance from the Health Committee, Green said.