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Sue Bush
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Temporary Maternity Unit In Place

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Saturday, April 08, 2006

Happy Family: Arianna Cairns, one day old, is cuddled by Kathy Tanguay, while Arianna's mom Kishsa Cairns and Cairns' boyfriend Matt Tanguay celebrate Arianna's April 6 birth.Arianna is the first baby born at a North Adams Regional Hospital temporary maternity unit.
North Adams - For the next six to nine months, expectant mothers delivering their babies at the North Adams Regional Hospital will do so at a newly created temporary third floor maternity unit.

The unit opened earlier this week, and has already welcomed a new face into the world; tiny Arianna Cairns was born on April 6.

NARH Community Relations Director Paul Hopkins and Vice-president of Patient Care Services and Maternity Care Director Billie Allard
offered a media tour of the temporary quarters on April 7. Hopkins and Allard spoke of the spaciousness, safety, and quality of care offered at the third floor site while emphasizing the major benefits of a brand-new, state-of-the art maternity unit currently being constructed on the second floor.

Until the move earlier this week, the maternity unit was housed on the hospital's second floor.

A Dream Come True

NARH Vice-president of Patient Care Services and Maternity Services Director Billie Allard describes a temporary maternity unit and plans for an under-construction state-of-the art maternity unit at the hospital.
The second floor site is undergoing a complete renovation and transformation, with plans to install hot tubs, create private rooms with private bathroom facilities, specially designated areas for fathers, and a large glassed-in infant viewing arena for families.

Amenities such as hot tubs are not meant as luxuries but as birthing aids, Allard said.

Research indicates that laboring mothers who are surrounded by warm water that is bubbling to some degree may relax more completely, which can assist in process, she said. Showers will also be erected and women in labor who prefer a warm shower will be able to choose that option, she said.

Mothers who have given birth will stay in rooms that are separated from labor and delivery rooms, according to Allard. Women who undergo gynecological surgeries, such as hysterectomies, or other primarily female surgeries, such as mastectomies, will also be cared for within the maternity unit, she said.

Allard said that women undergoing hysterectomies, mastectomies, and similar surgeries have reported that a cheery maternity unit atmosphere can aid with recuperation.

The planned improvements are being eagerly anticipated by hospital personnel and the community, Allard said.

"[The maternity renovation] is a dream come true," she said. "So many of us didn't think we'd see these changes."

Safety, Health Care Top Priority

The temporary space was crafted after many hospital staff meetings and three meetings with state Department of Public Health officials, Allard said. DPH approval for the temporary quarters was necessary and has been obtained.

A temporary nursery can care for up to nine babies at one time, and is outfitted with isolettes and a neo-natal crash cart for emergencies, and the unit hosts sleeping quarters for doctors, Allard said.

The hospital has a "relationship" with the Bay State Medical Center, and when necessary, maternity unit staff, including doctors, can consult with Bay State medical personnel, she said. For example, should a woman arrive at NARH in premature labor, a consultation with Bay State personnel could determine whether the woman remains at NARH or is transferred to Bay State for further care. A woman who has not yet given birth is transported by ambulance to the medical center. When medical situations force an infant transfer to Bay State, the medical center sends a team of neonatal medical staff to accompany the infant on the journey. The NARH maternity unit staff is trained to provide care until a neonatal team arrives, Allard emphasized. Maternity unit nurses, respiratory therapists, and obstetricians are all trained in neo-natal resuscitation, she said.

"It is a marvel to watch," she said of the care given to infants. "I am very proud of our nursing staff."

The hospital offers the services of lactation consultant Rosalie Girard, who is considered a "treasure" by hospital staff and many families, Allard said.

Girard recently attended a national conference dedicated to breastfeeding and, after her return, hosted a NARH seminar to share information and new breastfeeding techniques, Allard said. Girard is a presence in patient rooms and also conducts home visits when mothers and infants are discharged from the hospital.

Security measures are in place at the temporary site, Allard stressed. Allard declined to specify what the measures are out of safety concerns but did say that numerous alarms are in place.

"No baby can get near a door without us wanting them to," she said.

A cozy waiting area has been set up for family members. The temporary patient rooms are designed as private rooms but should a "baby boom" arrive, an additional bed can be brought into each room, Allard said.

A Different Kind Of Labor

The move from the second floor to the third floor was accomplished in a 24-hour span and benefited from an enormous amount of staff cooperation and team work, Allard said.

"Even the docs were carrying stuff upstairs," she said.

Pre-move meetings that laid out the move details were held. Items were relocated on a room-by-room basis, and evening and night nurses moved items through their shifts, which permitted day shift workers to work quickly to complete the relocation, she said.

Thankfully, no babies were born during the move, but the relocation was orchestrated in such a way that if a mother in labor had arrived at the hospital, facilities were in place to care for her and an infant, Allard said.

Multiple "safety rounds" were completed to ensure that all oxygen connections and other equipment was functioning as the move progressed, Allard said.

Hospital housekeepers, maintenance personnel, and even electricians helped doctors and nurses make the maternity unit move, Allard said.

The third floor was once used as the NARH Transitional Care Center, which ceased operations several years ago. Once the renovated second-floor maternity unit is opened, the third floor space is likely to find use as a office and some outpatient services space, Allard said.

Progress All Around

Construction at the hospital lobby may be completed by month's end, said Hopkins. A media event and a public ribbon-cutting are being planned, he said.

The second phase of the Critical Care Unit is nearing completion as well, Allard said.

New construction of the hospital's Emergency Department is underway.

A new medical/surgical unit has been in operation since January.

The NARH reconstruction project project launched in 2004 and is being funded with over $10 million of CARE Campaign contributions and about $13 million in bonds.

The hospital is facing additional planned changes and improvements; earlier this year, Allard said that a licensed practical nursing education program could begin teaching student nurses at the hospital campus in 2007. The proposed program will be offered through the Charles H. McCann Technical High School. Other options under consideration by hospital officials is establishment of several hospice beds at the hospital, Allard has said.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at or at 802-823-9367.
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