Base Naval Hospital opens new birth wing

NOV. 2 — The days of sterile, blinding-white hospital rooms, your baby being whisked away to a far away place the minute after being born, are finally over — at least at the Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital, where the new Mother/Baby Unit features 18 new labor and delivery suites as comfortable as they are efficient and secure.

The project, a collaborative effort between Cherry Point and Camp Lejeune, cost $5.5 million and was completed in July after two years of work. “We’re following national trends to keep labor, delivery and recovery in the same room,” said Lt. Cmdr. Anne Brown, Department Head of the Mother/Baby Unit. “When mom comes in, she stays here until she’s stabilized after delivery.” This allows the mother to avoid hassling transfers to other floors.

The rooms are twice as large as their older counterparts and come with a rocking chair to nurse the baby and a couch that folds out into a bed for dads to sleep on. “We’re trying to decrease the stress of the mother. The size of the room really helps the flow, the baby’s not crammed in here and we can fit a large amount of family members and staff,” said Brown.

Equipment rooms are directly adjacent to the suites, allowing for quick access.

“This way the staff doesn’t have to leave the room. It’s more of a team approach,” said Brown.

Next to the bed is an epidural machine, a new technology which allows the mother to press a button to alert nursing staff that she’s in pain and allow them to monitor her while she re-doses at the push of a second button.

The room also includes what looks like a mere entertainment center that opens to reveal a self-contained baby unit and equipment to monitor and warm the baby after it is born.

“Effectively, the baby doesn’t have to leave the mom’s side,” said Erma Cooke, civilian neonatal nurse practitioner.

Mothers will also deal with the same nurse during their entire stay, which facilitates asking questions and getting answers to more personal matters, said Cooke.

Security measures have been heightened as well. The baby is given a tag directly after it’s born. If the tag gets within six feet of the doors of the new wing, they will lock down. If the tag manages to go through the doors, all the doors to the entire hospital are locked, in addition to emergency alerts being sent to all staff and security.

Another new security feature to give mothers peace of mind involves pink name tags. “Families are told that if staff members aren’t wearing a pink-colored name tag, don’t let them have your baby,” said Cooke.

“This security measure does come from other hospitals having babies taken and we want to prevent that,” said labor and delivery nurse Lt. Sheila Almendras-Flaherty.

The measure seems to be in full effect. “One time, a dad wouldn’t let me take the baby because I forgot my name tag in the car. It’s good that we’ve educated them,” said Cooke.

Right down the hall is the Level 2 Immediate Care nursery, which allows staff to stabilize critical babies and aid with emergencies. “Everything is all right here and we can help each other readily,” said Cooke.

Next door to the nursery is the new triage room, which houses everything necessary to do an evaluation if patients are having contractions and there’s a question as to whether or not they’re going to have the baby early. The room includes an ultrasound machine, blood tests, curtains for privacy and a television to distract. The labor and delivery nurses alternate caring for triage patients — and it helps that it’s right down the hall. “The proximity of everything is helpful if there’s an emergency or the mother needs a C-section or any number of things. It’s literally a very short ride,” said Cooke.

The computer systems have been updated as well and they’re all connected. “If you need to look at a patient’s records or make immediate updates, it’s all there, the computers all require a code so not just anyone can get information about a patient. Instead of hunting for charts, you don’t even have to leave the room and you can make quick updates in the main system,” said Almendras-Flaherty.

The hospital gets 150 deliveries per month, which fluctuates depending on the time of year. “We’ve had steadily increasing deliveries, so we are hiring nurses. The Marines keep us busy. Nine months after a deployment comes back, everyone comes in,” said Brown. There is an overflow area on the third floor, but the staff hopes it won’t be necessary. Even if it is, the same staff members head up there to make sure everything operates smoothly.

What makes the naval hospital unique is the number of available staff. “Civilian hospitals generally don’t have as many on-call and in-house staff,” said Brown. “You get more here, you get the whole team, including corpsmen and the Marines appreciate the team approach.”

The hospital is a naval family practitioner residence facility, and they also have an anesthesiologist in-house at all times.

Education is also a big concern at the hospital. “Most of our patients are young, around 21 years old and it’s their first baby,” said Cooke. The nurses help to educate new mothers on how to care for themselves and their new baby. The mothers are scheduled to come back again a week or two after they leave.

The pharmacy took seven months to renovate. Located next to the GNC store, the full-service pharmacy is 11,000-square-feet and cost $75,000. “We have a prescriptions-refill pick-up site now. People can bring in civilian prescriptions and we can fill them while they’re shopping,” said Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Flott, department head of the pharmacy. “It’s really freed up the congestion and wait time over at the Naval Hospital.”

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