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Senator Schumer Secures Almost $1 Million for St. John’s Riverside Hospital Maternity Unit  Upgrade – New Equipment & New Programs Focused On Black Maternal Health

U.S. Expectant Mothers Are Dying At Highest Rate In Developed World; Black Moms 3X More Likely To Die From Pregnancy & Over Twice As Likely To Have Birth Complications; 28% Of Hospital’s Maternal Patients Are Mothers Of Color   

After fighting alongside advocates, frontline workers, and local officials at St. John’s Riverside Hospital last summer, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced he has secured $990,000 for critical upgrades to Yonkers’s sole maternity unit. These upgrades will support a new racial equity community-based program to improve maternal health outcomes for Black women. This funding was secured as a part of the recently unveiled bipartisan spending package for Fiscal Year 2022.  The current facility serves more than 1,300 moms annually, 28% of whom are Black women. Thanks to the  funding championed by Senator Schumer the facility will be transformed into a modern full service maternity unit designed to support and address racial inequities in birth outcomes.

“This summer, I stood shoulder to shoulder with Black maternal health experts, advocates, and the frontline workers at St. John’s Riverside promising them that I would not stop fighting until they got the funding needed to make critical renovations to the hospital’s existing labor and delivery space and make lifesaving improvements for Black mothers, children, and families throughout Westchester. Today, with nearly a million dollars in critical federal investment on the way, I am glad to say promises made are now promises kept,” said Senator Schumer. “For far too long, Black women in New York and throughout the country have faced a disproportionate risk of complication, risk, and death during child birth, falling behind the rest of the developed world in maternal health. It’s past-time we rectify this injustice. This is why I fought for this nearly $1 million investment to tackle New York’s maternal health crisis at its very core while creating healthcare jobs here in Yonkers and, most importantly, it will benefit each of the 1,300 moms who come to the maternity unit every year.”

New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "I want to thank Majority Leader Schumer for his partnership by advocating our concerns to the highest level of government and delivering on a promise that will have a significant impact on the health of our community. The St. John’s Riverside Hospital serves as the only maternity hospital in Yonkers and caring for over 1,300 patients per year, they have been unable to improve their facility for decades. This $990,000 will go a long way in finally bringing the level of care our families deserve. I look forward to continuing efforts to improve maternal health on the state level and working with Majority Leader Schumer to better the lives of those we both proudly serve.”

“Kudos to Leader Schumer, he indeed brought home the bacon!  The Senator joined Sister to Sister International (STSI), St. John’s Riverside Hospital, NYS Senate Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins and various other community partners this summer to lift up the issue of Black maternal health.  We recognize, that we are truly in a state of emergency when it comes to the disparities in maternal health outcomes and we need all hands-on deck!   Leader Schumer has been a staunch advocate. The  $990,000 that he secured in the federal budget bill to upgrade the St. John’s Riverside Hospital maternity unit will make a tremendous impact on the comfort level and outcomes for Black birthing women at St. John’s Riverside Hospital.  The funding will also underwrite the inclusion of community professionals including midwives, doulas and pregnancy support services, as well as anti-bias training for staff.  All of these interventions are part of the Sister to Sister International and St. John’s Riverside Hospital Strategic Plan for improving birth outcomes for Black women and making  the hospital a leader and role model in the region.  We applaud Ron Corti, President and CEO on his leadership and the commitment of his team,” said Cheryl Brannan, Founder of Sister to Sister International, Inc.

 “For over 150 years, St. John’s Riverside Hospital has strived to provide comprehensive medical and nursing care in a compassionate, professional, respectful and ethical manner to every patient. Recently, with the guidance of St. John’s Committee to Address Regional Equity in Healthcare, and our partnership with Sister to Sister International we are making every effort to address the significant disparities in maternal health outcomes such as maternal mortality, premature births, low birthweight births and our percentage of cesarean sections among Black birthing mothers.” said Ronald J. Corti, President and CEO at St. John’s Riverside Hospital. “Thanks to Leader Schumer for his strong advocacy on behalf of pregnant women and the enhancements that we will be able to provide as a result of the funding. It will help us improve birthing outcomes and stay true to our mission."

“We are so delighted that the partnership between the Westchester Women’s Advisory Board, STSI, and Senator Schumer over the last couple of years in working to help improve equity in Black maternal health in Westchester County has led to our coalition securing almost $1 million for St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers. Among other things, this money will enable St. John’s Riverside to do the vital work of providing the highest quality culturally competent anti-bias training to every member of their staff so that their patients’ experience individualized caring, supportive, and excellent care from the moment they first walk through the hospital doors to the moment they leave with a healthy baby. In addition, St. John’s Riverside will be able to offer prenatal, pregnancy, and postnatal educational services to all their patients so they will be given the tools and empowerment to provide for their own health and that of their babies. We thank Senator Schumer for his important work on this,” said Shannon Powell and Margaret Coleman, Co-Chairs of the Westchester Women’s Advisory Council.

Specifically, this Schumer-secured grant will fund renovations to SJRH’s existing labor and delivery space to enhance and support culturally appropriate care for Black birthing women. The room will also support natural, physiologic birth through incorporation of equipment that will allow movement for the birthing person. In addition, the room will be decorated  with images of black and brown families and will be outfitted with equipment to encourage skin-to-skin contact to enhance infant attachment.  The room will also allow routine procedures to be performed for babies while they are in the mother’s arms.

The room itself will be renovated to reflect a space that is large enough for extended family and community support, including the support of other birthing professionals such as midwives and doulas. It  will also incorporate state of the art telehealth equipment to allow the families and community to be connected even during times when ‘in person’ connection might be challenging, such as during COVID surges. Schumer said that the construction and facility enhancement will support SJRH’s current partnership with Sister to Sister International and its coalition members, including a team of local Black women experts in the field.

Concurrently, SJRH will seek to train up to 100 hospital staff (laborists, OB/gyns, anesthesiologists, nurses, and other staff) through assessments of implicit bias as well as providing workshops to increase the cultural competency of hospital staff. 

Schumer said that SJRH is the only maternity services provider in Yonkers, New York’s 3rd largest city.  St. John’s Riverside provides millions of dollars annually in uncompensated care each year and 67% of their maternity services are delivered to women on Medicaid or Medicaid-managed care. Schumer states that this project will increase the Maternity Unit’s fiscal viability. The renovation of the space will also support a larger effort to decrease health disparities for Black women in Yonkers.

Schumer also said that he made sure that the federal budget bill funding this maternal space included the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act and the Rural MOMS Act. These foundational bills authorize and improve programs to address the maternal mortality crisis. These Schumer-secured bills will support states, tribes and local governments and other entities like Sister to Sister International who are working to improve maternal health, support new grant programs to provide training to address racial and ethnic bias in the provision of maternal health care, improve rural maternal and obstetric care data, award new rural obstetric network grants, and establish a new rural maternal and obstetric care training demonstration program.