The baby business is booming at Carroll County General Hospital.
Since opening the first phase of its $3.3 million Family Birth Place in July, the number of births at the Westminster hospital has been on the rise. There were 96 in December alone, making it one of the busiest months for babies in the hospital's 35-year history.
If the pace continues, Carroll County General officials expect for the first time to exceed 1,000 births in a year. The hospital's fiscal year ends in June.
"Our number of deliveries has been growing steadily for years, and with this newer facility it's growing even quicker," said Tricia Supik, assistant vice president of comprehensive community services at the hospital. "Patients see us responding to this community's needs."
Carroll County General is promoting its Family Birth Place as a one-stop shop for prenatal, childbirth and postnatal services. The center offers birthing suites, a special care nursery and education classes ranging from "The Breastfeeding Experience" to "Pediatric Basic Life Support."
"The educated, modern woman doesn't approach this with a 'Do-with-me-what-you-will attitude,' " Supik said. "Their mind-set is, 'We're involved and we're in charge.' "
The upgrading of maternity units has been a priority for hospitals nationwide for several years, said Nancy Fiedler, executive director of the Maryland Hospital Association.
"Many hospitals have revamped and retooled the focus of their maternity units to be much more consumer-friendly to better reflect the comforts of home with modern medical equipment," Fiedler said.
The efforts are partly a response to the increasing number of patients who want childbirth to be treated as a normal, positive event instead of an illness or operation.
"It's not in the same vein as other hospital admissions, yet you still need the assurance that emergency health care is seconds away if you need it," Fiedler said.
Carroll County General's new Family Birth Place centers on the concept of single-room maternity care, which allows women in most cases to go through labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum follow-up in the same room, called an LDRP suite.
"When the mom arrives, she checks into the suite and stays there until she goes home," said Supik. "It brings everybody together in one room with the [medical] practitioners, rather than having fragmented care with the baby in the nursery and the mom in the recovery room."
According to hospital officials, Carroll County General is the first in the Baltimore area to use the single-room concept. Several area hospitals have birthing rooms called LDRs, or labor, delivery and recovery suites, in which the woman still must go to a separate unit for postpartum follow-up.
New mother Kathy Iannello hadn't planned on delivering at Carroll County General Hospital, but when the Silver Run resident went into labor in the early hours of Dec. 23, traveling to St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson wasn't an option.
Iannello and her husband, Terry Dalton, were pleasantly surprised by the new Family Birth Place.
"We did not plan on being there" Iannello said. "If anybody had doubts it was us."
Iannello, who underwent a Caesarean section, stayed in her LDRP suite for three days. She was wheeled to surgery in the bed from the suite and returned to the room to recover.
"I felt like I had a room at the Hilton. It was very calming and comfortable," said Iannello, who enjoyed the privacy, but was reassured by the fact that medical help was always close by. "We were never more than a few feet from the nurses' station."
Carroll County General Hospital began its Family Birth Place project in November 1995. Although the hospital's maternity unit had up-to-date medical equipment, the unit had not been renovated since 1978. The hospital was losing patients to other medical facilities with more modern and aesthetically pleasing units, and local obstetricians were pushing for a new unit.
"Now we have a facility that matches the services we've always provided," Supik said.
The 13 spacious LDRP suites feature soothing pink-and-green color schemes, recessed lighting, hardwood floors and a Jacuzzi-style large shower. The medical equipment for labor and delivery is concealed behind paintings and cabinets, and each room has a recliner chair or a sofa bed for the father.
Supik said when a mother-to-be gets a first glimpse of the private suite, frequently her reaction is, "You mean I can stay here the whole time?"
After the labor process, the LDRP suite is converted into a birthing room and then converted back after the delivery.
"Instead of whisking the baby away to be examined, the pediatrician comes to the room," Supik said.
Included in the Family Birth Place is an operating and recovery suite for Caesarean births and a nursery to care for underweight or premature babies. If she wishes, a mother whose newborn needs extended care may stay overnight in the nursery.
An obstetrician, pediatrician and anesthesiologist are based at the unit 24 hours a day.
A separate entrance for the Family Birth Place with an adjacent parking lot is scheduled to be completed this summer.
Pub Date: 1/15/97