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Birth center deemed unnecessary by state

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By Marty Finley

The certificate of need coveted by supporters of the Visitation Birth & Family Wellness Center will not be granted.

Administrative Hearing Officer Kris M. Carlton has concluded a presumption of need was not proven during hours of testimony stretched out across a four-day hearing in Frankfort earlier this year in front of the Cabinet for Health & Family Services.

In her 34-page decision, Carlton said attorneys representing Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown, Flaget Memorial Hospital in Bardstown and Twin Lakes Regional Medical Center in Leitchfield effectively refuted notions made by the birth center and its founder, certified nurse midwife Mary Carol Akers, that it was a necessary alternative.

In particular, Carlton said Akers presented no "credible" evidence it could attract or convert the number of Jefferson County home births it projected in its initial years, according to opponents.

Carlton also argued Akers produced no substantiating data justifying the number of home birth conversions she anticipates from each county.

"Absent the numbers provided by Akers, no need has been shown, and thus, does not exist," she stated in the decision.

The center was proposed for construction on Ring Road and was designed to provide a home-like, comfortable setting for expectant mothers with more expansive birthing options than what is typically offered in a hospital, according to Akers. If approved, it would have been the only freestanding birth center in Kentucky.

It was unclear Tuesday if the ruling will be appealed.

For information and reaction, see Wednesday's print edition of The News-Enterprise.