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State-Of-The-Art Technology And Quality Care Make Birthing Easier

A newly renovated labor and delivery room at LewisGale Maternity Center.
By Laura Neff-Henderson

Having a baby has gotten just a little easier for women in the Roanoke region thanks to a $2.5 million renovation to the Maternity Care Center at LewisGale. The 521-bed hospital in Salem, now boasts a state-of-the-art maternity care unit on the hospital’s second floor. The unit includes nine Labor-Delivery-Recovery-Postpartum suites that are 50 percent larger than they previously were, as well as eight postpartum suites and a physician sleeping suite.

“We’ve put mom, baby and the whole family into the design of this unit. We’re not just focused on the patient. We’re focused on the whole family,” said Karen Henson, director of the Maternity Care Center. “This is family-centered care.”

The rooms, which overlook Electric and Keagy roads in Salem, look more like a master bedroom than a hospital room. From the cherry colored hardwood floors and 37” flat screen televisions to the high-tech fetal monitoring systems, many postpartum women and their families may find they don’t want to leave. Each of the private rooms also has a sleeper sofa for overnight guests, replacing the older style reclining chairs that the rooms used to have. The rooms also include in-room refrigerators and walk-in showers and one of the rooms has a labor tub.

To streamline the recovery process for moms who deliver by c-section, a dedicated operating room suite for c-sections means new moms can quickly and easily move from the operating room after delivery into a postpartum suite to recover. In the past, patients have been required to spend about two hours in the recovery room.  During that time they could not be with their new baby or significant other.

“Patients are now brought back to the unit immediately after their c-section to facilitate that skin to skin contact and initiate breast feeding,” said Henson. “Women want to be with their babies immediately.”

About 30 percent of LewisGale deliveries are c-sections.

It isn’t all in the look of the center through. The renovation also included the installation of several security features designed to ensure that new moms can rest a little easier.

The centralized monitoring system transmits real-time date, including fetal heartbeat and contraction patterns, to each of the three nurses’ stations on the unit and directly to the patients’ chart and permanent medical record. Doctors can also access the stats via their smart phones, allowing them to monitor their patients from anywhere.

“This has allowed us to be able to monitor from the bedside, which we’ve always been able to do, as well as outside of the room,” said Dr. Christopher Kelley, an OB/GYN with LewisGale Regional Health System. “I can be in the office doing my daily work and still have the availability to peek in and make sure everything is going well with baby and mom.”

The larger rooms also help accommodate all of the staff members who have a job to do in the room during the delivery, he explained.

A new infant security system also ensures that babies cannot be taken from the unit until they are discharged. In addition to security cameras strategically placed throughout the unit, the system also includes tamper-proof ankle monitors for the newborns. If the tag is loosened or removed, an alarm will trigger a lockdown, preventing anyone from leaving the unit.

They have also instituted a visiting policy that requires visitors to be admitted to the locked maternity unit.

According to a Centers for Disease Control report released in November, birth rates for women of all races and most age groups across the county have declined over the past three years to the lowest rate since record-keeping began in the 1940s.  National experts blame the dismal economic picture for the decrease.

That isn’t the case though for LewisGale where officials have seen the hospital’s birth rate nearly double during the last two years, from about 400 in 2009 to 800 so far in 2011. Officials hope the number will continue to increase now, thanks to the renovation.

“Not only are [our patients] getting the new technology, they are getting the personal care that the community loves and has come to expect of us here at LewisGale,” said Henson. “That’s why they come here.”

The maternity unit staff consists of about 50 staff members including nine physicians and two internationally certified lactation consultants as well as a full-time onsite birth registrar. The unit was last renovated in 1980.

Tours of the newly renovated unit will begin in January. For more information call: 877-242-2362. 

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