Keesler Medical Center opens new labor and delivery unit

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After almost a year's delay due to Hurricane Katrina, Keesler Medical Center opened its new labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum unit on Jan. 8.

The last baby was born at the medical center Aug. 29, 2005, on the old unit, during the height of Hurricane Katrina. Originally scheduled for completion in January 2006, the LDRP offers beautiful surroundings and state-of-the-art equipment for patients who will deliver at the medical center.

According to Ms. Cynthia Butz, a clinical nurse in the 81st Surgical Operations Squadron perinatal services department, the new unit offers large, airy rooms where women spend their entire stay throughout the delivery experience.

"I'm really impressed by the rooms," Ms. Butz said. "They have windows (which the hospital's former labor and delivery area lacked), are light-filled, decorated with pastel colors and have wood floors. The medical equipment in the rooms is state-of-the art. Each has a TV and DVD player. Most important to mothers, the LDRP rooms have private bathrooms." She added that eventually each room will have its own coastal theme.

Ms. Butz noted that babies will stay with their mothers most of the time. However, the unit also includes a transitional nursery for newborns requiring a bit more attention after delivery.

In addition to the delivery rooms, there are also antepartum rooms for expectant mothers

who experience medical problems early in their pregnancies, and two operating rooms for Caesarian deliveries.

The unit is staffed with six OB/GYN physicians, a nurse midwife, nine Air Force and three civilian nurses, as well as seven medical technicians. More staff will be arriving over the coming year.

Ms. Butz commented that having a midwife on staff is a definite plus. "Many people like the services midwives provide, it's a different kind of care." She said the active-duty nurses were hand-picked for their clinical experience by 81st MDG Chief Nurse Col. Elizabeth Bowers-Klaine.

Commenting on the returning service, Lt. Col. (Dr.) Michael Bashford, 81st MSGS Obstetrics/Gynecology Flight commander, said, "I am really excited to have this unit open. Now we have a beautiful new unit with lots of space. It rivals any of the best civilian hospitals. I think our patients will be anxious to have their babies here when they see what has been done."

Colonel Bashford continued, "I am also very happy with our new labor and delivery staff. All our nurses have many years of experience on labor and delivery. It is going to be a great team."

Construction on the new LDRP was completed in August 2006 at a cost of $9.4 million. Colonel Bashford noted that planning began on the new unit several years ago and construction started before Hurricane Katrina. "We were worried after the hurricane about what would happen to the construction, but were very gratified when the decision was made to complete the project. From my point of view, it is all about giving our patients a great delivery experience."

OB Clinic Services
With the opening of the Labor and Delivery unit, obstetrical care in the clinic has also resumed for all eligible beneficiaries. Patients may elect to be followed through their pregnancy primarily by one provider, or they may elect to see different providers. All routine and most high-risk services are offered.

Colonel Bashford noted, "We follow the same national guidelines that physicians throughout the United States follow. For example, all patients have ultrasounds in both the first and second trimester. We also believe strongly in family-centered births, meaning that we want to support the entire family's participation in the pregnancy and birth as much as possible. Old rules that don't allow children in the clinic are out. We have fold-out sleepers for dads too."

Patients can ask questions about OB care at the Medical Center by calling the clinic at 376-0436. Pregnant patients with concerns after hours should call Labor and Delivery direct at 376-5621. Family members can also call 376-5621 to contact a patient admitted to the unit.