FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — On average, for the last 20 years, once every three days Stephanie VanderHorst has delivered a baby.
“But they all come at night and on the weekend,” she laughed.
VanderHorst is an award-winning certified nurse midwife and co-owner of the Auburn Birthing Center, 1915 Wesley Road, Auburn.
But there was no trace of laughter when she was asked about Parkview Health’s decision to end labor and delivery services in LaGrange and DeKalb counties in September.
“I’m shocked… surprised.”
In 2019, Parkview Health acquired DeKalb Health, which had operated for years as DeKalb Memorial Hospital.
Prior to Parkview, VanderHorst, the other midwives on staff, and Dr. Thaddeus Weghorst, the OB/GYN at Auburn Birthing Center, were allowed to admit patients to the hospital. This allowed seamless care at either the stand-alone birthing center or at the hospital blocks away.
VanderHorst admitted DeKalb’s policy was rare; Parkview granted them only attending provider status.
“I had to have another physician click a button that said that I was okay to take care of the moms and babies,” VanderHorst explained. “I know a lot of our nursing staff felt that they had maybe better benefits and pay. I had more frustrations with the availability of supplies. And I hate to say much more than that. But it was definitely different. Many times we said we missed DeKalb.”
VanderHorst said rent for their office went up 50% under Parkview, forcing them just this month to move away from the hospital campus to a space across town owned by Lutheran Health Network.
VanderHorst had no idea Parkview was considering shutting down labor and delivery. She said no one in her office was offered any position at a different Parkview facility. That left her scrambling to get admitting privileges somewhere else, possibly Lutheran-owned Dupont Hospital, a 20-minute drive from the birthing center.
VanderHorst said many of her patients are from Allen County; some drive from hours away for their unique services.
In an email, a Lutheran spokesperson confirmed the possibility. “We look forward to working with the group to gain medical staff privileges at Dupont Hospital to ensure that women continue to have options for their OB/GYN care.”
The vetting process can take 60 to 120 days. While she was glad it’s rigorous, VanderHorst said her care for mothers would not change in that time.
“I have an office. I have a great team of providers. We are willing to continue to take care of women. It’s in our soul. It’s what we do. It’s not based on our paycheck. And I’m rapidly trying to find a place to take them.”
Earlier this week, WANE 15 requested an on-camera interview with Parkview Health to learn more about their decision but has not heard back yet.
WANE 15 has been told a group of Auburn mothers is trying to organize a rally to persuade Parkview to reconsider. That will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday on SR 8, near the south side of the Parkview DeKalb campus.