The Juneau Empire reported on Friday, April 29, that the city of Juneau is expecting a budget surplus of $6.3 million. Rather than have the city reduce the mill rate, I would like to see the Assembly use this projected surplus to provide for adequate medical staffing at Bartlett Regional Hospital so that women can safely have babies there. Currently Valley Medical doctors do not permit their patients to have VBACs (vaginal birth after Caesarian) because the hospital cannot provide emergency C-sections in a timely fashion. So a pregnant woman who has previously given birth by C-section has no choice but to face another C-section in Juneau or travel out of town to attempt a VBAC, both risky choices and not as preferable as attempting a VBAC in her own town. Yet a woman who has not previously had a C-section is permitted to attempt a vaginal birth, with the understanding that an emergency C-section will not be immediately available.
We need to do better than this. Bartlett is a regional hospital, providing the best medical care available for all of Southeast Alaska; we have a responsibility to all the women and families and babies in Southeast Alaska to provide safe labor and delivery options, including VBACs. Would $6.3 million be enough to provide for a surgical crew to be on call 24 hours a day at Bartlett? That would be money well spent, in my opinion.