Planning underway for new maternal and newborn services units at Cape Breton Regional Hospital

Olivia Green and her parents Melissa and David spent nearly three months in the NICU at CBRH.

When Olivia Green was born at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital (CBRH) in December 2020 she and her parents, Melissa and David, spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) before heading home nearly three months later. 

In the future, families like the Greens will benefit from a new unit being planned for the hospital, as part of the CBRM Health Care Redevelopment Project. 

The new unit will bring NICU, the labour/delivery unit and the postpartum unit together as the maternal and newborn services unit.

“We will be able to improve the whole patient experience,” said Beth Whyte, a registered nurse in NICU. “The new space will allow parents to be more involved in their baby’s care during their time in NICU and provide a more comfortable, home-like atmosphere.” 

With planning underway, benefits of the new unit will include: private patient/family rooms; more comfortable spaces for support persons; and integrating labour/delivery and postpartum units to one, so labour, delivery, recovery and postpartum care can take place in the same hospital room. 

This ties into the Golden Hour Initiative – an hour of skin-to-skin contact that takes place between parents and their baby after delivery. 

“With more privacy parents can stay with their baby for the entire time they’re in NICU,” said Whyte. “Going from an open space to private patient rooms will provide quiet and comfortable spaces so parents feel more comfortable to sing, read or provide skin-to-skin contact with their babies, which is important to help infants get off to the best possible start.”

The NICU and labour/delivery units at CBRH are the largest in the province, outside the IWK Health Centre in Halifax. 

Each year, the labour/delivery unit at the hospital has about 900 births. In NICU, babies can stay from four hours up to four months. 

Neonatologist, Dr. Andrzej Kajetanowicz, , is the director of NICU at CBRHand has been practicing in Cape Breton since 1998. He said so far planning for the new unit has been going very well.

“It’s exciting to be part of planning and the designers are very responsive. They’re listening to our needs to design a modern, up-to-date space that will allow families to have more involvement in the care of their infants,” he said.

As clinical nurse lead of obstetrics, Kelley Lundrigan says integrating the labour/delivery and postpartum units reduces the amount of moving families have to do post-delivery and helps staff work more closely as a team. 

“We will be able to work as a more integrated, collaborative team,” said Lundrigan. “We are excited for what we can provide for our patients, giving them a comfortable space at a time when they’re going through so much. The new space will allow us to keep the family unit together. We get a lot of great feedback and suggestions from our patients and the designers are listening to our needs – it’s very exciting.”

Schematic design for the new unit is nearing completion, with involvement from the units’ staff, physicians, management, clinical leads and patients. 

Working groups with staff and physicians from neonatal and obstetrics are providing direct input into the planning. Overall, the team is very happy with how planning is going and is thankful that it builds on the initiatives that the CBRH Hospital Foundation has supported, which have helped improve the patient experience over the past number of years. 
 
For the Green family, they’re happy staff will have new space to allow them to continue to provide wonderful care. 
 
“The staff are incredible and provide amazing care, now they will have better tools and improved space to provide that care in,” said Olivia’s mom, Melissa. “This is our main hospital and not everyone lives down the road. Being able to stay with your baby to help transition them to going home is better for patients, families and the staff.” 
 
The new maternal and newborn service unit will be part of the Clinical Services Building (CSB) being built at the back of theCBRH. The CSB also includes a new emergency department, critical care department, inpatient beds and surgical suites. A new Cape Breton Cancer Centre is also being built at the back of the hospital. Early construction and site prep is now underway. For more information about the project, visit, www.cbrmhealthredevelopment.ca