Kansas nurses sue to overturn midwife law

August 15, 2018 - 2:18 pm
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Two nurse midwives are trying to overturn a Kansas law prohibiting them from practicing without physician oversight after they lost the ability to deliver babies at a hospital.

Kara Winkler and Julie Gorenc have filed a federal lawsuit saying that requiring nurse practitioners to practice under a physician is unfair because doctors have a financial interest, the Kansas City Star reported .

"They're what we call a market competitor," said Keith Williston, an attorney for the midwives. "They both want to treat the same patients."

Winkler and Gorenc are part of Midwife Partners in Women's Wellness in Lenexa. The women allege they lost 25 clients who were planning to give birth at Shawnee Mission Medical Center after Dr. Janetta Proverbs ended her collaborative practice agreement with them. No other Shawnee Mission laborists would take them on. Laborists are hospital-employed physicians who deliver babies for women who don't have a regular OBGYN.

Proverbs has called the allegations "unfounded."

"If they didn't like the rules and didn't want to follow the rules they shouldn't have joined the hospital," she said. "The hospital did not treat them any differently than any other provider that has hospital privileges at Shawnee Mission."

Proverbs declined to say why she ended her agreement with Winkler and Gorenc.

Kansas is one of 19 states requiring nurse midwives to sign such agreements with physicians. State-certified nurse midwives in Kansas pressed for legislation in 2015 and 2016 that would allow them to practice independently of doctors. After a lobbying group for Kansas doctors opposed such a bill, a compromise allowed midwives to practice independently only if they get a medical license from the state's nursing board and from the board that regulates doctors.

Williston said such a law leaves midwives at the mercy of doctors who can restrict their practicing unless they give physicians a portion of the revenue.

"(Midwives) really don't have a choice," Williston said. "They have to accept whatever terms are put in there."

The defendants listed in the lawsuit include the president of the Kansas State Board of Nursing, Proverbs, four laborists and Adventist Health Mid-America, which is the parent organization of Shawnee Mission.

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