Keesler holds ribbon-cutting, open house for new birthing center

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Keesler Medical Center holds a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house for its new Family Birthing Center from noon until 2 p.m. March 19. Brig. Gen. (Dr.) James Dougherty, 81st Medical Group commander, will host the event in the new inpatient unit, located on the medical center's third floor. 

The new unit opened for patient care on Jan. 8 after almost a year's delay due to Hurricane Katrina. 

In addition to inviting Keesler AFB leadership, all members of the Keesler community are welcome to come and view the new center. The 81st MDG staff is also inviting former staff members, patients and babies born at the medical center to attend and participate in the new center's opening. 

Lt. Col. (Dr.) Michael Bashford, Obstetrics and Gynecology Flight commander and medical director for the new center, has overseen the project from planning to opening, and is extremely proud of the unit. 

"We want everyone to come and see this great new birthing center. It's what our patients really need and deserve. A lot of babies were born in our old labor and delivery unit and a lot of great memories were created there, but it could not compare with our accommodations now. The new unit is spacious and medically state-of-the-art. 

Keesler's new birthing suites allow the medical and nursing staff to provide top-quality care during the birthing process in a private, home-like environment for the entire family. 

"The new unit brings with it a lot of changes compared to the way we did business in the past. The rooms are much bigger and accommodate multiple family members if the patient desires. We have fold-out sleepers in all the rooms and encourage dads to spend the night if they want to. Moving around to different inpatient units is gone also; most patients will stay in their same room until discharge. We even have a new waiting room that we did not have before. " 

Because privacy and safety are top priorities, the unit has a technologically-advanced infant-security system. Also, a security photo of the baby is taken shortly after delivery and footprints that may serve as a security measure are provided.
The birthing center staff understands each family has their own personal wishes regarding their birth plan. Therefore, families are encouraged to discuss their wishes with their provider during prenatal visits. Within medical guidelines, all attempts will be made to accommodate patient's wishes. 

"Our goal is to provide a family-centered birthing experience," Maj. Debra Egan, 81st Inpatient Operations Squadron Maternal Child Health Flight commander, stressed. "We have prepared childbirth classes, breastfeeding classes and sibling classes which will enable a brother or sister to be at the birth if the family chooses. Over the next year we also plan to establish a base focus group which would include labor and delivery staff, Family Advocacy (New Parent Support), Life Skills and OB clinic personnel to identify additional services our military community needs." 

Colonel Bashford added, "Everyone needs to come and see the new 81st MDG Family Birthing Center. It has been a long time coming. Now that it is here, our patients have a wonderful place for this most important event - the birth of their new baby."