Family Birthing Center expands

November 20, 1998

By MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

Maternity patients and their families have more space to maneuver now that Washington County Hospital's Family Birthing Center has expanded some rooms.

When the center opened in 1989, it was the first on the East Coast to offer all-inclusive rooms for labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum services, according to Debbie Malick, nurse manager. There were 12 such rooms available, along with four private rooms with no birthing equipment.

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If many women were in labor at once - sometimes five to seven an hour - rooms would be at a premium. New mothers sometimes had to be moved from the rooms in which they delivered to make room for women about to give birth. Mothers even had to be shifted from the second-floor obstetrics rooms to the fourth or sixth floors, though they still were cared for by obstetrics nurses.


"We didn't have enough space," Malick says.

To remedy the situation, the hospital began to expand the center around January of this year.

It now offers 18 rooms for labor, delivery and postpartum services. There also are nine private rooms.

By Sept. 17, patients could use six new larger, full-service rooms and five new private rooms. The older full-service rooms also have undergone cosmetic changes. By the beginning of November, the expansion was complete.

The private rooms are for women who may need extra bed rest or for Caesarean patients. Malick says the private rooms really should be considered semi-private because the women do share their rooms - with their babies.

"It's your baby who's your roommate, not another woman," she says.

Cabinets hold a fetal monitor and emergency supplies for the mother and space for her belongings. There is a rocking chair and a long, flat couch where fathers, family members or friends can sleep. In the older rooms, guests could rest in a reclining chair.

"Everything they need is in this room," Bishop says.

Each room has a television and a bathroom with a shower stall, toilet and sink.

The rooms also contain a warming bed for the babies. A monitor on the baby tells the machine what the infant's temperature is and controls the warming light.

"The baby drives the thermostat," Bishop said.

A light stored in the ceiling above the mother's bed is for doctors or midwives. In the old rooms, a portable light was needed in addition to overhead lighting.

Donna Lofton, a nurse midwife with Women's Health Center at Robinwood, says she appreciates the improved lighting.

The expansion helps the hospital accommodate more women who now can stay longer after birth and rest assured that their insurance will pay.

A Maryland law that took effect July 1, 1996, increased the amount of time from 24 to 48 hours that insurance companies had to cover a woman's hospital stay after vaginal childbirth. Women who have Caesarean sections now can stay up to 72 hours, Malick says. The law was adopted nationally in 1997.

Some women opt for a shorter stay, particularly if they have children at home, explains Jody Bishop, nursing clinical coordinator.

Extra space

Samantha Westurn, 24, of Mercersburg, Pa., was resting last week in one of the new rooms with her baby, Autumn, who was born Nov. 17. Her first daughter, Audrae, was born Nov. 1, 1994, in one of the older rooms.

She enjoyed the extra space, which came in handy when she had six or seven visitors at once.

"Everything's close at hand," Westurn says.

The extra space also is appreciated by doctors and midwives because they don't have to leave the room for supplies or equipment, Bishop says.

"They can concentrate more on the care of the patient," she says.

Lofton has heard many compliments from patients.

"The ladies all say it feels more homey," Lofton says. "The dads love having their bed."

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