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Baby boom cramps maternity wards
Relief in sight for LRMC
AW BabyWard1
Liberty Regional Medical Center nurse Brenda Jones, RN, checks on one of the county's newest residents in the hospital’s nursery. - photo by Photo by Andrea Washington
A makeover for Liberty Regional Medical Center’s crowded maternity ward could start soon with financial assistance from lawmakers in the nation’s capitol.
This past week, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah) earmarked $100,000 in the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education funding bill to assist hospital administrators with plans to expand the wing.
The congressman met with LRMC officials and doctors earlier this year to tour the maternity ward and listen to concerns about the hospital’s capabilities in handling the 700 births projected for the county this year.
While the overall population growth of Liberty County has played a major role in the baby boom, the increase in troops at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield coupled with multiple deployments has also been  significant factors in the rise in births.
With Fort Stewart’s Winn Army Community Hospital, and to a lesser extent Hunter Army Airfield’s Tuttle Army Health Clinic, unable to accommodate the number of mothers needing care and giving birth on post, Liberty Regional has been responsible for dealing with the shortfall.
“It’s the county that has to pick up the difference between what Tuttle and Winn can’t handle. The rest of it comes to the hospital," Kingston said. “That’s why the money is needed.”
According to Dr. Seth Borquaye, the number of babies born at the hospital has doubled in the past seven years.
“In about 2000, when I came here, we were doing about 20 to 25 deliveries a month,” the obstetrician said. “Now, we’ve averaged 41 deliveries a month since January.”
Doing a walkthrough of the maternity ward, Borquaye said with such a high number of births, its four delivery rooms can easily fill up and cause staff to separate newborns from their mothers.
“When we have 40 and 41 deliveries, we have to move some mothers around (to other rooms in the hospital) just to make room. But what we’re doing is, we’re separating them from their babies and we want to keep them and their babies together,” he said. “But sometimes we just have to because our facility is too small.”
Kingston said funding in the bill would allow LRMC to expand the obstetrics department, including additional beds for mothers and a larger newborn nursery.
The money would also go toward adding a C-section operation suite on the second floor, neighboring the baby ward, solving what Borquaye called a logistical flaw in the hospital's original design.
“Assuming someone was in an emergency and we didn't have any lights, how are we going to carry the patient down through the elevators to the surgery suite?” he asked, pointing out the current surgery suite used by doctors for C-section operations is on the first floor.
“We need a C-section room right next to prenatal, so all you do is wheel the patient to the room and wheel them back. You don’t have to struggle.”
With the financing for these improvements in sight, LRMC Chief Executive Officer Scott Kroell said the money would “go a long way toward maintaining (the hospital’s) obstetrical services.”
But the check has not been signed quite yet. The House Appropriations Committee approved the bill, including the funds for the hospital, but it still needs to win approval in a full House vote expected in the coming weeks.
“I’m confident that we can pass it on the House floor because when the soldiers come back from Iraq, there will be another spike in births,” Kingston said. “And I know this money isn't enough to do everything that (Kroell) needs, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
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