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Vitale-Ruiz Introduce Bill Creating ‘Maternal Mortality Review Commission’

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Panel Would Report On Rates & Causes of Maternal Death, Recommend Improvements In Maternal Care


TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz recently introduced legislation to create the Maternal Mortality Review Commission, a state panel to review and report on rates and causes of maternal death in New Jersey and to recommend improvements in maternal care.

“The maternal mortality rate in this country is remarkably high compared to other developed nations, and reports indicate that many of these deaths are preventable. There has to be a greater emphasis on the health of mothers and in providing proper information and care at every stage of pregnancy. That means implementing a process for reporting and investigating cases but also standardizing protocols in health care facilities for addressing the factors that are leading to pregnancy-related deaths,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “This panel will undertake this important effort.”

“It is unacceptable that maternal death rates have risen in the United States despite vast improvements in medical science and technology,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “As a nation we have to address this issue, but we have a responsibility in New Jersey to improve outcomes for mothers by embarking on an aggressive campaign to address maternal care. This commission is key to that process.”

NPR and ProPublica conducted a six-month investigation into the issue of maternal health, finding that the United States has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, a rate that is rising in this country while declining in other parts of the world. Key findings of the report included that there’s a hodgepodge of hospital protocols for dealing with potentially fatal complications, allowing for treatable complications to become lethal. Additionally, hospitals — including those with intensive care units for newborns — can be woefully unprepared for a maternal emergency. The report also found that 60 percent of maternal deaths are preventable.

In 2012, there were approximately 16 pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births in the United States, with the highest mortality rate being evidenced among black women, who suffered an average of 41 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Under the bill (S3452), the commission – to include representatives of state government and members of the health care community – would be required to annually review and report on maternal death rates and causes of maternal death in the state, and provide recommendations to improve maternal care and reduce adverse maternal outcomes related to, or associated with, pregnancy.

The commission would conduct an investigation in association with each report of maternal death, prepare a de-identified case summary, to include the commission’s findings with regard to the cause of, or factors that contributed to the maternal death, and recommendations for actions that should be undertaken or policies that should be implemented to mitigate or eliminate those factors in the future.

It would also be required to use maternal health reports and statistical data to identify trends, patterns and disparities in adverse maternal outcomes and medical, nonmedical and system-related factors that have contributed to maternal death and treatment disparities.

The commission would annually report its findings and recommendations on maternal mortality to the Department of Health, the Governor and Legislature.

The bill was introduced Thursday and referred to the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.