Recovering in comfort at new maternity ward Hospital hopes unit attracts more patients

March 29, 1998|By Jill Hudson | Jill Hudson,SUN STAFF

Howard County General Hospital officials are opening a maternal/child unit Wednesday, and expectant mothers are trying to hold off the inevitable for just that much longer.

That's because the nearly complete $3 million, 16,500-square-foot unit looks more like a posh hotel than a sterile hospital.

"I've got patients who are knocking on wood and crossing their legs so that they can give birth in April instead of March -- just so they can stay in our new unit," Dr. Marvin Davis, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the hospital and chairman of the maternal/child health committee says, laughing.

After giving birth in the delivery room on the Columbia hospital's first floor, mothers and their babies will be taken directly to the new unit in a private elevator.

The main visiting area has cherry-wood columns and brass lamps. The walls are made of clear block glass, and the carpet is similar to the one in Camden Yards' Club Den.

Each room is outfitted with a videocassette recorder and a plush reclining chair, and every bathroom has a heat lamp, shower and high-powered hair dryer.

Been in labor for 36 hours? Come on upstairs and take it easy.

Though the ribbon-cutting ceremony is tomorrow, patients will not begin using the unit until Wednesday. Today, an open house will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

'Homelike atmosphere'

Howard General, like other hospitals competing for patients, hopes the new unit will entice prospective mothers.

Blanka McClammer, nurse manager of the new unit, says the ward is designed to be family-centered.

"We really knew what patients were looking for after having a baby," she says. "So many women said they were looking for the safety of a hospital with a nice, homelike atmosphere."

The long hallways are decorated with colorful art and paintings depicting mothers and children. The nursery for newborns sits off to the side, and there are quiet nooks where mothers can spend a few minutes with their babies.

Emergency medical kit

Each room has a sophisticated emergency medical kit hidden behind an inconspicuous floral print above each bed. Pushing the picture up and to the side reveals a stethoscope, blood pressure monitors and electronic defibrillators.

Davis says the maternal/child unit has been a dream for hospital staff and patients for 10 years, but the plan began to come together only two years ago.

"All of the physicians, nurses and new moms had been wishing for it," he says. "We had certain ideas of what was needed, but we didn't have the wherewithal to make that happen. But everything we wanted is pretty much taken care of in this unit."

The unit has security for the new infants, and access to the unit is strictly controlled.

Davis and McClammer say they expect pregnant women to tour the unit once it opens, perhaps as part of the hospital's Maybe Baby program, which is designed for prospective mothers.

Private rooms

"People in Howard County are pretty sophisticated consumers," Davis says. "There's a lot of planning that goes into where a baby is born."

Many Howard mothers -- especially those who want to keep their newborns with them -- request private postpartum rooms. Twenty-six of the unit's rooms are private, and three are semiprivate.

The opening of the unit follows the announcement that Johns Hopkins Medicine is taking over Howard County General Hospital.

The $142 million merger will allow Howard General to expand its maternity services, and to redesign and expand its emergency room, hospital officials say.

Pub Date: 3/29/98

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