Some local parents are concerned about some big changes scheduled to take place at OSF St. Francis Medical Center. There is now a petition circulating. As most of you know, the hospital is in the process of a multi-million dollar make-over. The parents are thrilled about most of the changes, but they do have a concern. Labor and Delivery, Antepartum, and Post Partum will soon be an entire building away from the new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Right now they are only separated by one floor. That means if a baby is born early or with complications, it takes a NICU doctor about a minute to get to the baby. Many parents see this as a major benefit. The close proximity is also convenient for moms who are recovering from surgery to be able to go see their babies in the NICU.
I talked to The head of the NICU, Dr. Jim Hocker, about these concerns. He said, "What’ going to be different is that we are moving to another building. All the children’s part-the peds intensive care unit, NICU, surgeries will be over there. The babies will have to be transported to another building. Right now we don’t have to do that. The difference will be that Labor and Deliver and Post Partum will be in a separate building. It will be a 4-5 minute transfer instead of 1-2 minutes."
My first thought was, will this impact patient care? Dr. Hocker says it will not impact the health of the babies. The hospital is making accommodations. He said, "Because we will be separated, we will need an Advanced Practice Nurse in the Labor and Delivery area 24-7 to respond to any emergencies that would incur in labor or delivery or anywhere on the 5th floor. There will still be a Level 2 nursery that will remain on the 5th floor that can take care of babies that aren’t extremely sick but maybe need feeding tubes. "
Me: But Could that 4-5 minutes jeopardize a baby’s health? Dr. Hocker said, "No. We can give them nasal c-pap and travel in an incubator the same way they do now. We would make sure they are stable before they make the trip over. That may mean starting an IV."
Me: So which babies get sent to the NICU? Dr. Hocker: "The NICU is level 3 –the most serious cases-any baby that needs to initially be on a ventilator. All admissions from outside the hospital-which is about 1/3 of our admissions-they get transferred in to the NICU. From Labor and Delivery –babies with respiratory stress, who need surgery would be the most common to send to the NICU. Sometimes borderline kids who are just born early will go to Level 2. They need to gain weight and may need a feeding tube."
Dr. Hocker says the many positives of the Milestone Project far outweigh and negatives. "We plan to move in August of 2010 and we are going to move into a 60 bed all private room NICU. We are excited about that because we think it’s going to be a lot better for the babies and their families. We are hopeful it has specific advantages for reducing infections- maybe even some developmental advantages. Right now we have 8-9 babies per room. That is the way they were designed in the 1990’s. Its gonna be a different culture. Every baby and parents will have their own room. It will be much more comfortable for moms to pump and try nursing-a lot more privacy."
Me: Will Labor and Delivery/Post Partum ever be moved to the new building? Dr. Hocker:
"It is going to happen at some point most likely, when that’s going to be we don’t know. It is a top priority, but with the economy the way it is, there is no time line put out there. We can’t even make a guess as to when that’s going to be."
Me: Is that a concern for you and your staff? Dr. Hocker: "Not a concern, but it will create a few challenges after the moms do deliver. We want them to be able to come over and see the babies. C-sections may have to wait a little longer, I don’t know. It depends on how sick the moms are. They may have high blood pressure. It is going to be a little trickier, a little more of a challenge to bring the mom over to another building post partum. It will happen, but with the operative deliveries it may be more challenging. This is an obstetrical decision on when moms can travel."
Me: Are there enough nurses to transport these moms? That would be a good 15 minutes each time they take a mom over. Dr. Hocker: "Yes, they do that now, but it will tie them up a little longer. It is a priority to bring the moms down, and just about every time the fathers walk over with the doctors to see the NICU babies right away."
Me: You don't have any idea when the departments will be together again? Dr. Hocker: "If money was not an issue, realistically I would hope within a couple years. We hope to have the Labor and Delivery and NICU together again. It will cost several million dollars."
"Remember, this is the make-up of most Children’s Hospitals-that labor and delivery are in another building because it’s a Children hospital which means no adult patients. This is not anything new." Me: But it would be better to have them together? Dr. Hocker:"Sure, from a logistic standpoint it would be great to have them next to each other. That’s best for us."
The goal of the moms who started the petition is to let the hospital know they want putting the departments in the same building to be a priority. They're hoping by getting the support of the community, the move will happen as soon as possible.
CLICK HERE to read the petition.
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