CARDIFF-BY-THE-SEA — Hundreds of supporters, many wearing green and holding signs, rallied May 14 to support a well-respected physician whose future delivering babies is uncertain.
On May 7, Dr. Robert Biter was stripped of his obstetric privileges at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas, where he has been delivering babies for several years and once served as the department chair of obstetrics and gynecology.
Scripps officials did not give a reason for the suspension, and a release from the hospital called it “a confidential medical staff issue.”
The suspension has outraged Dr. Biter’s following of expectant mommies and sparked a string of protests outside the hospital.
Effective immediately, Dr. Biter is barred from delivering babies at Scripps. That means his patients — many of them due any day — are now in the position of having to rethink their birthing plans.
Megan Filipovitch, one of Dr. Biter’s many patients, and her husband, Evan, joined the supporters. “This has left me with a lot of questions,” she said. The expecting mother was due on May 10, the same day she and her husband received the news that Dr. Biter was no longer allowed to deliver babies at the hospital. “We’re not delivering at this hospital without him (Dr. Biter) here,” Megan Filipovitch said. The couple described Dr. Biter as “kind and concerned.”
“We feel very lucky to have him,” Megan Filipovitch added.
Barb Herrera, a licensed midwife, said Dr. Biter has earned the respect of midwives as well as patients. “He is a midwife in an OB’s clothing,” she said. After being present at 20 deliveries with Dr. Biter, Herrera coined him “Dr. Wonderful.”
“He’s so friendly,” she said.
“This leaves dozens of women due right now with questions and not knowing where to birth their babies,” said Carol Yeh-Garner, a local HypnoBirthing instructor and natural birth supporter. “They’ve suspended the most natural birth, mother-baby friendly OB in town.”
Lauren Hodges held her 2-week-old son, Brayden, during the rally. “This is one of the last Biter babies from Scripps,” she said. In fact, numerous children delivered by Dr. Biter were on hand. Andrea Belec, a Carlsbad resident, brought her 2-year-old daughter Lyla to the rally. “It’s a shame,” she said, lamenting Dr. Biter’s termination. “Shame on Scripps.”
Belec said the positive experience she had during the birth of her daughter was due in large part to Dr. Biter. “We wouldn’t have had the birth we did without him,” she said.
Dr. Biter announced his suspension on May 7 at Mamafest, where he was a speaker. Just two days later — on Mother’s Day — the first protest was organized in his support. Since then, Dr. Biter has not issued a statement and messages left for him were not returned.
But his supporters remain vocal in their resolve to support him. With two institutions to his credit — Seaside Women’s Health in Encinitas and Babies by the Sea Boutique in Cardiff by the Sea — and a brand-new birth center in the works, the natural birth advocate is sure to continue a successful practice elsewhere. “I wish him continued success,” former patient Amy Berg said. The Escondido resident gave birth to two “Biter babies,” as most of his patients refer to their children. “He had faith in me, he gave me my first healing birth,” she said.
Scripps also terminated the North County Health Services nurse midwife practice on Jan. 1 of this year. Sarah Davis, a midwife who is not affiliated with the Scripps, said the hospital is becoming more unfriendly to expecting mothers who want to have natural births. “The midwife practice wasn’t making enough money for the hospital,” she said. “They were replaced by a private practice.” Hospital officials did not return numerous phone calls requesting comment.