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Booming birth rate delivers needs at hopsital

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POSTED: February 27, 2007 5:08 a.m.
With the looming prospect of delivering more than 700 babies this year, officials and doctors at Liberty Regional Medical Center recently met with Rep. Jack Kingston to discuss plans to expand the hospital’s maternity ward.
“The area’s designed to deliver 40 or 50 babies a month,” LRMC Chief Executive Officer Scott Kroell told the congressman. “We’re already set to deliver over 70 in March.”
According to Vision Committee president and hospital authority board member Jim Thomas, a significant portion of the booming birth rate can be attributed to the 3rd Infantry Division’s redeployment last March.
“From March until now, the birth rate in the hospital has increased by 50 percent or more,” he said.
Obstetrician Dr. Seth Borquaye said with Winn Army Community Hospital delivering up to 180 babies a month, LRMC has to deal with the windfall of patients who cannot be seen on post due to a shortage of available doctors.
The two hospitals have a “gentlemen’s agreement” to work with each other to provide services during pregnancy and labor, but keeping expectant mothers happy is proving to be a test.
“Some of them are complaining because with Tricare (military health insurance) we are supposed to see them within 30 days, but we can’t do that,” Borquaye said. “Our clinic is booked up to March already, but we try to squeeze them in.”
Attempting to maintain room for the growing number of mothers and infants, LRMC has started an early discharge program, which allows some new mothers to leave the hospital 24 hours after giving birth.
“The next day we send nurses to their homes to visit them and check on the baby,” Borquaye said. “That’s the only way we can do what we’re doing.”
Pediatrician Dr. Phillip Ajayi, however, said the program only works with healthy mothers and babies. He believes eventually there will be deliveries with complications that cause mothers and children to stay in the hospital.
“And when that happens, what we have right now will not accommodate them,” he said. 
Although space is the major concern, doctors would also like to include a separate surgery suite for the maternity ward because of safety issues when C-sections or other surgical operations need to be performed.
Unlike most hospitals, according to Borquaye, LRMC has its surgery suite on the first floor, and labor and delivery on the second floor.
“So, when we have to bring someone in for a C-section, we have to wheel the patient down to the surgery suite with the elevators,” Borquaye explained. “What happens if the elevators breakdown?”
During a tour of the maternity ward, Kingston saw firsthand how easily spacing could become a problem, especially in the nursery. He also discussed how and where expansion could take place.
The congressman suggested against using earmarks to fund expansion, but said impact aid or money from the Department of Defense’s $480 billion budget could be possible avenues.
“I think you’ve got a case,” Kingston said. “And it is a unique situation because of the military post. We’ll look at it.”
While the meeting was focused on funding for the maternity ward, Thomas said the ultimate goal and challenge is to provide adequate services for all sectors of the emerging community.
“We’re seeing such growth that we want our health services to the county and to the citizens to grow accordingly,” he said. “If they don’t, we’re going to lose them to places like Savannah.”
 

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