BY MARK WEBER
Welcome news to local expectant families, Red Deer Regional Hospital has opened new obstetrical operating rooms and a recovery area.
Officials say the labour and delivery unit expansion, budgeted at $9.7 million, ensures greater access for high-risk pregnancies and scheduled and emergency Caesarean sections.
A new recovery area near the operating rooms means parents can also spend time with their newborn babies more quickly following delivery.
“The project was delivered on time and on budget,” said Allan Sinclair, executive director of the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. “We also know that babies don’t always arrive on schedule which is one of the reasons having these ORs is especially important and critical to the quality of care that our physicians and staff provide every day,” he said.
The addition of two dedicated obstetrical operating rooms also offers greater privacy as labouring mothers requiring an emergency delivery were previously transported to a general operating room in another part of the hospital.
A dedicated anesthesiology service will also support patient care and the medical team in the new obstetrical operating rooms. The new obstetrical operating rooms are also expected to free up space in the general operating rooms, allowing approximately 330 more general surgery cases per year.
“Today is a great day of celebration for expectant moms and their families who come to the Red Deer Hospital to welcome the newest member of their families,” said Brandy Payne, associate minister of health. “Prior to this expansion, women who were delivering scheduled or emergency Caesarean sections had to be transported through the hospital to a general operating room. Now, with the recovery room right next door to these dedicated ORs, parents can precious time bonding with their newborns more quickly after delivery,” she said.
For one local mom, the expanded area really made all of the difference with the recent birth of her daughter. Veronica Clark was the first mother to deliver in the new dedicated operating room at the hospital.
“Being able to nurse my baby and enjoy skin-to-skin contact with our tiny newborn was a wonderful experience for my partner and me. The difference between bringing Ilandra into the world and my previous deliveries was night and day as it was so great to be able to enjoy those moments so soon after the birth of our third baby,” she said.
During a prior birth, she said she was shocked to learn the mothers and babies could be separated after birth for up to one hour.
“Mothers would go to the recovery room alone while the father and baby would go and wait on a ward for the mom to return.” That separation also interfered, she said, with breastfeeding success initially.
For her most recent birth however, she described it as nothing short of a dream come true.
“Knowing I would be with my baby and able to bond with her immediately after birth helped to calm my nerves,” she said, she said. “I cannot tell you how long I was in recovery for – it didn’t matter to me. I had my baby and I had James, the two people that mattered most in that moment were there so time stood still.”
About 2,700 babies are born at the Red Deer Regional Hospital each year, including about 480 emergency C-sections and 420 elective C-sections.
Red Deer Regional Hospital is also the only referral centre for obstetrics in Central Alberta.
Dr. Christopher Cham, clinical head for obstetrics and gynecology at the hospital, said the project is the result also of years of contributions from planners, consultants and, “Over 50 members on the design team alone.
“From a care provider’s perspective, it’s an amazing place to work. It really does add to the morale and to the joy of getting up and coming to work when you have facilities like this to support that,” he said, adding that before, it took five to 10 minutes to get to ORs downstairs; now it’s a total of 30 seconds to the operating table.
The Red Deer Regional Health Foundation donated $1.2 million for equipment including baby warming centres, fetal monitors, physiological monitoring equipment and anesthetic machines.
“We knew this project was important because of its broad impact on overall health care for Central Albertans,” said Bob Bilton, chair, Red Deer Regional Health Foundation. “We promise our donors that we will direct funding to projects that enhance health care for everyone in the central zone and today we have really delivered on that promise.”