It’s normal for pregnant women to be nervous about giving birth, and that’s even more true now that coronavirus is present in our community. As an OBGYN, I’m hearing from many pregnant patients who are wondering if it’s safe to give birth at Maui Memorial. I completely understand these concerns but want to reassure women that, in my opinion, the hospital is still the safest place to have your baby.
Most importantly: to date, we don’t know of a single case linked to Maui Memorial Medical Center Labor and Delivery (L&D). And not one of our health care providers or mothers has tested positive, nor have we had a positive mother in labor.
First, it’s important to remember that L&D is in an isolated unit that’s separate from other parts of the hospital. We don’t have specialists or floating nurses rotating in, and our team of dedicated doctors and nurses don’t go out onto other floors unless it is necessary to visit an OB patient in another area like in the OR or ED. This significantly reduces the risk of spreading infection. And of course, staff are keeping all surfaces and equipment disinfected and cleaner than ever with enhanced cleaning protocols.
We’ve also made important changes to protect patients and prevent the spread of coronavirus. Every mother and her support person is screened for symptoms before entering the hospital which includes having their temperature checked. They are assessed again when they check into the L&D unit. And we continue to check the patient and their support person for symptoms every day that they’re in the hospital until they are discharged. Women with scheduled C-sections and inductions are tested for coronavirus before being admitted, and we recently began universal testing which allows us to test everyone admitted to the hospital, including OB patients. We use rapid testing so we know very quickly if the patient, who may not have any symptoms, needs to be isolated, protecting patients, employees, and physicians.
Everyone is given a mask when they arrive and asked to wear a mask at all times. We know it can be difficult to wear a mask during labor, but we gently encourage her to keep it on if she’s able. Currently, all medical staff in L&D wear N-95 masks covered by surgical masks, as well as protective headgear and eyewear during deliveries and cesarean sections.
We also have strict limits on visitors. Each mother is allowed to have only one support person for her entire stay in the hospital. That’s a big change from before, when a mother could have up to three people present while giving birth, and an unlimited number of visitors afterward.
After birth, mother and baby room together—which has always been the ideal arrangement—rather than having babies stay in the nursery. All of the procedures–whether it’s medication administration or baths–are done at the bedside with mom in the room. Some tests, like the hearing test, are done in the nursery, which is closed to everyone except OB staff and doctors. Additionally, we make every effort to discharge mothers as soon as it is safe for her and her baby, so they aren’t in the hospital longer than necessary.
Finally, we’ve converted three of our postpartum rooms into COVID-safe rooms, separated from the rest of the floor, and equipped with HEPA air filters. If any mothers arrive who are confirmed or suspected positive, they will be able to labor, deliver, and receive postpartum care safely, all in one room.
The most important thing you can do if you’re feeling worried or unsure is to speak up. Start a conversation and bring up your fears with your doctor. By sharing information and having an open dialogue, you can make sure your concerns are addressed, and come up with a birth plan for a healthy and safe delivery.
For more information on how Maui Memorial Medical Center is keeping our moms, babies, and families safe, visit mauihealth.org/safe.
Dr. Stacy Ammerman, OBGYN, Maui Lani Physicians and Surgeons, and Vice-Chair, OBGYN Department, Maui Health