TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Attorney General Letitia James held an in-person hearing on Monday for the public to provide official testimony on the potential closure of the Burdett Birth Center. This comes after St. Peter’s Health Partners announced plans to shut down the Burdett Birth Center, the only maternal unit in Rensselaer County. 

In 2020 Albany Memorial Hospital and Samaritan Hospital, both affiliates of St. Peter’s Health Partners, merged and promised there would be no negative impact to services or care provided at either facility.

“At the time of the merger in 2020, approval of the application was intended to preserve – preserve – maternity services in Rensselaer County, especially for the significant low-income population,” said James. 

She said the proposed closure of the Burdett Birth Center – where 881 babies were born last year – would break a promise made at the time of that merger, promises the A.G.’s office said were made under oath.

“We want to ensure that their actions align with their commitments to the community and their charitable missions,” said James. 

Officials with the AG’s office said the hearing is part of the examination of St. Peter’s Health Partners’ decision making process regarding the proposed closure.

Zanetta Gray gave birth at the center and shared emotional testimony at Monday’s hearing and said the situation is dire.

“I hate to sound morbid but women are gonna die, to put it really plainly,” said Gray. “I think we have to remember that this is not just inconvenient for people. This is not just something that’s a hurdle.”

A closure would mean a longer commute while in labor and for moms like Rozara Sanders, who also gave birth at Burdett, the potential for that is gut-wrenching.

“It’s vile, really. It makes me sick to my stomach to think about the fact that so many people in Troy are going to have to labor in the CDTA, it’s just completely inappropriate,” said Sanders. 

According to the Save Burdett Birth Center Coalition, 22 percent of Troy households do not have personal vehicles.

“Babies like to come at night, babies don’t know the bus schedules and the bus doesn’t run 24 hours,” said Sanders.

The attorney general said they should be opening more maternal health centers, not closing the one that’s been the last one standing since 2011. 

“It seems to me that it’s really better to replicate a facility instead of closing it down,” said James. 

Gray echoed James. She said her birthing experience with the Burdett staff was comfortable and she enjoyed having people there who wanted to be there, doing what they love.

“I’ve been to several forums and to see the AG is getting involved it’s very empowering it feels like while this is actually being taken serious, we are being taken serious, there actually are people who care about us and it’s the best feeling in the world.”

St. Peter’s Health Partners have cited financial issues with Medicaid as the reason for proposing the closure.

“Unfortunately we live in a country that is about profit before people and that’s very clear when these types of things happen. You’re going to lose a life to save a dollar, that’s the state of where we’re at and it’s deplorable, it’s so odd, it’s the worst,” said Gray.

The plan is currently under review by the New York State Department of Health. Representatives from the department were in attendance but did not provide any testimony.

“To the people who have initiated this proposal I just want to say that I’m sorry you didn’t know what was coming at you with the people of Troy, because we were not just gonna let this stand.” said Sanders.

If the closure is approved the Burdett Birth Center could be closed by the end of the year.