Bill pushing to better track data on maternal deaths and near deaths called ‘necessary’

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — State Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston, told lawmakers the state can’t wait any longer for updated data on moms dying and those barely surviving childbirth. 

“Even today as legislators, we cannot readily put our hands on any information regarding the number of women that may have died or nearly died in 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, because the data backlog for maternal health is so severe,” Thierry said during testimony. 

State Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston, testified Wednesday on her bill, which could change the way Texas tracks data on maternal deaths and near deaths. 

She told members of the Public Health Committee the state’s data is nearly a decade old. 

House Bill 136 would change that and create the development of a work group to establish the first statewide, online maternal mortality and morbidity data registry. 

The work group would have members including physicians, an epidemiologist and a number of others with experience in maternal health.

The web portal would collect and store data from hospitals and other health care providers across the state on deaths during or within one year of delivery and near deaths. It would also include details on high-risk conditions and complications. 

‘The time is now’

“Eliminating the maternal data backlog will help guide our state’s efforts to implement strategies and best practices to reduce our maternal mortality and morbidity rates,” Theirry said. “The time is now.”

She explained the bill would not require any extra funding beyond what the state has already set aside for maternal health.

The lag in data is a problem that KXAN’s “Mothers Erased” investigation highlighted in 2019. 

“There is a saying I think in science and medicine, and that is that our conclusions are only as good as our data is reliable or in this case, recent,” said State Rep. Tom Oliverson, R- Houston, who is a joint author on the bill. 

Supporters testify

Theirry has also worked closely with the Texas Hospital Association over the last several years on the bill. 

Last session, the bill cleared the same committee but never made it to the full chamber. 

“While Texas has made strides to reducing maternal mortality and morbidity, there’s still work to do, and HB 136 is an important step in the right direction,” explained Steve Wohleb, general counsel of the Texas Hospital Association, testifying in support of the bill. 

The committee will now need to vote on the bill. If it passes, it’ll head to members of the Texas House. 

“This is an issue that effects women from every background, of every race, of every ethnicity, so we certainly want to get on top of this now in 2021 to eliminate this maternal data backlog,” said Thierry. 

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