SPRING HILL — Heavily pregnant Carson Rivera stood eagerly at the front of the crowd as Oak Hill Hospital launched with public tours on Saturday the grand opening of its 18-bed state-of-the-art maternity suites.
"I'm the first C-section scheduled on Wednesday morning," said the bright-eyed 25-year-old Rivera, a Spring Hill mother of three. It would be the first time Rivera would have the opportunity to watch the entire delivery.
In the hospital's specially equipped obstetrical surgery suite, nurses explained that the old cover-all drape is gone, replaced with a clear drape through which the mother can see "the golden experience" unfold. So, too, the father or another person of the mother's choosing, who will stand by her head.
"I'm excited about the clear drape," Rivera said. And "the operating room is a lot larger (then where she has delivered previously). The rooms are beautiful. I love it."
She referred to the spacious labor and post-partum rooms, where computer and field monitoring apparatus allow the expectant mother to walk about, where she can choose her favorite aromatherapy diffusion, where mothers will experience up to two hours of after-birth skin-to-skin bonding with their infants, where baby and mother will share a memory foam bed for the duration of their stay, where Dad is provided with a couch with a pullout bed.
Patient suites are equipped with a flat-screen TV, WiFi, refrigerator and private bathroom with shower, all of which dazzled Jose Estrada, whose fiancee, Chelsea Barrett, 21, will deliver their first baby, a son, later this month.
"It's fancy," the Spring Hill resident opined.
"This is like a five-star," said Jessica Allen of Spring Hill, who has chosen Oak Hill for the birth of her fourth child, expected July 25. "The kindness of everybody so far" likewise wowed the mother.
The staff includes three obstetric-gynecology specialty physicians, five board-certified midwifery nurses, numerous maternity nurse caregivers and teaching specialists in areas such as lactation, new family care and sibling preparedness.
With the maternity unit operational 24/7 year-round, midwives are core, performing most of the deliveries, although expectant mothers may arrange for physician-assisted deliveries.
Five midwives with Suncoast OB/GYN and All-Women's Midwifery & Health Care came on staff exclusively with the hospital Tuesday.
"Midwives are in the same office as the (obstetrics) doctors, so we meet most of the patients (before delivery)," said midwife group leader Michelle Hale. "The five midwives total 107 years of experience."
Speaking of the maternity suite nurses, hospital marketing director Rich Linkul pointed out, "Even though the unit is new, they have much experience. They're top of the line."
Veronica Didier, a registered nurse, is one of those. With 50 years of experience as a mother and 40 years as an obstetrics nurse who personally delivered some 100 babies in rural hospitals, she gave up her job as a traveling nurse to join Oak Hill's maternity unit.
"I think this is the most awesome I've ever been in," she said. "They're all so dedicated, and it's state-of-the-art."
Many of the staffers have transferred from Bayfront Health Spring Hill, which has operated the only maternity unit in Hernando County since 2002. It was then that Oak Hill shut down its longtime maternity unit.
"Demographics indicated the need for enhancement of heart care," said Linkul.
Thus, space formerly occupied by maternity was converted for open-heart surgery.
Demographics now, he said, have changed, prompting the return of maternity services.
"There's tremendous growth in families, young ones. We felt it was to complement us to be a full tertiary hospital. Adding OB to women's services completed that whole package of offerings to the community."
Last year, births registered in Hernando County numbered 1,585. Of those, 1,295 were at Bayfront Spring Hill; 288, or 18 percent, were delivered outside of Hernando.
"Our operation is to keep people in the county," midwife Hale said.
Labor delivery nurse Angela Skelton took note of the timing of the maternity suites' opening, as Tropical Storm Colin made its way across Florida. She expressed enthusiasm for an extra-busy week.
"When the barometric pressure drops," she declared, " the babies start coming."
Contact Beth Gray at email@example.com.