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Officials of Harvard-affiliated teaching hospitals turned a cold shoulder yesterday towards a city of Boston proposal asking them to provide $3.75 million more in free and low-cost prenatal care for local residents.
On Monday, Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn released a plan calling on area hospitals to "take personal and institutional responsibility for improving the health of the neighborhoods."
Flynn asked the hospitals to take a more active role in providing prenatal and obstetric care, in an effort aimed at reducing the city's infant mortality rate.
But Christine Hickey, a spokesperson for New England Deaconess Hospital, said yesterday, "This kind of an arrangement is really inappropriate."
She stated that Deaconess currently does not provide obstetric care to anyone and said she believes the hospital was asked to participate in the program simply because the hospital recently applied for a building expansion.
"It looks as though there is a correlation between hospitals that had applied for expansions [and those who were asked] to provide for pregnant women and newborn babies," Hickey said.
But Michael Lynch, a spokesperson in the public information office of Boston City Hospital, denied Hickey's claim, saying that approval for building expansions was not linked in any way to the selection of hospitals for the new program.
"The invitation [to participate in the program] was to all teaching affiliate hospitals," Lynch said.
Some hospital officials also said they were concerned that the financial burden of the proposal will fall primarily on hospitals and urged the city to take more responsibility for implementing the program.
"The approach to this has got to involve lots of different agencies," said Mitchell T. Rabkin '51, president of Beth Israel Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School. "We have to get together."
"There are several different areas, including the state and city, that probably need to help. This needs to be a joint effort," said Karen S. Kutz, a spokesperson for Beth Israel.
Rabkin said that hospital and city officials will meet in late October to begin to clarify the program's goals and methods.
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