D.C. Council approves creation of maternal mortality review committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The D.C. Council has unanimously approved a bill that creates a committee that will look at the high rate of maternal mortality, when a mother dies during pregnancy or up to a year after giving birth, in the District.

The bill is called the Maternal Mortality Review Committee Establishment Act of 2017 and was introduced by Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen.

"It’s going to take a look at every single maternal death that takes place in the District and understand what caused it," said Allen.

The committee report for the bill reported that in 2016, there were approximately 40.7 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the District, while the national average was approximately 19.9 per 100,000.

The committee will be tasked with finding the underlying causes of the high maternal mortality rate and find solutions to bring that number down.

"This will allow us to get really at the root causes for these rare and tragic events. It’s really easy if you just look one case at a time to say, 'Oh yeah, I can understand why that happens,' but when you look at the numbers across the city and across the country we know we need to do more and this is the beginning," said Dr. Sara Imershein, the D.C. Section Vice-chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a supporter of the bill.

The bill now goes to the desk of Mayor Muriel Bowser for her signature and then to Congress for a 30-day review period.

Allen said if there are no challenges, the committee will begin on October 1.

The council's approval of the bill comes during the same week that two Congressional subcommittees began looking into maternal and infant mortality rates in the District.

Rep. Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee and Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee sent letters to the D.C. Department of Health (DCDOH) and United Medical Center with a list of questions pertaining to the issue.

A spokesperson for the DCDOH said the agency has no comment on the letter that was sent, but added it will comply with the request to respond to the letters within 30 days.

DCW50 News at 10 has reached out to United Medical Center for comment on the letters and is awaiting a response.