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Hospital revises maternity ward rules

August 20, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - The record for births during a month was shattered at Chambersburg Hospital in July, but while Mother Nature dictates when babies arrive, the hospital has taken steps to keep visitors from overcrowding the maternity ward.

The number of births averages about 100 a month, but the figure hit 156 in July, 30 more than the old record of 126 in July 2003, according to Vicki Riendeau, the evening clinical manager of the perinatal unit. She said the nurses and physicians adopted a policy, not in reaction to a problem, but to prevent problems from arising.

"We've been enforcing the rules since January," said Alicia Phillips. "We did have large crowds in the rooms, which made it hard for the nurse to do the care she needs to do."

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More important, she said, was "having the time for new families to rest and bond and learn what they have to do when they go home. With stays limited to 24 to 48 hours, she said there is little time for the families to do all three.

Some of the rules already were hospital policy, but were not strictly enforced, Riendeau said. Those include no more than four visitors in a room at any time and no one in the rooms under the age of 12 unless they are a sibling of the newborn.

"The issue of children visiting is very sensitive," considering the number of children from extended families who might want to visit the newborns.

A patient's physician also can limit the number of visitors and ask them to leave the room during examinations. The number of "support people" allowed during a birth is limited to two, according to the visiting guidelines.

Patients may designate who can and cannot visit the ward. Riendeau said security has been called to the ward a few times because of unwanted visitors.

Labor, delivery and recovery are usually accomplished in one of the dozen rooms in the unit. Riendeau said new mothers sometimes have to double up in a room but not during delivery, when the room is limited to the attending physician, nurses for the mother and baby and support people.

New this year is a badge system to limit the number of visitors. There are four badges to a room and visitors are checked in and checked out, Phillips said.

Babies no longer wear electronic bracelets to insure they are not removed from the unit. It is now locked down and staff members allow people in and out of the fifth floor unit, Riendeau said.

As an extra precaution against a possible abduction, staffers have a pink stripe on their identity cards and families are told to question anyone who comes in without the proper card. Riendeau said there has never been an attempted abduction at the hospital.

Riendeau said the rules are "a very delicate balancing act" since some new mothers want more visitors than the rules allow.

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