Expanding space and services for babies and pregnant women


St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Toronto (St. Joe’s) is expanding care for pregnant women and new mothers before, during and after delivering a baby.

One way the organization is responding to the needs of the growing south-west Toronto community is with the expansion of the Family Birthing Centre (FBC) and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Both the FBC and NICU will have new space and expanded capacity in Our Lady of Mercy (OLM) Patient Care Wing that will open in early 2012.

Nearly 60 per cent of the deliveries at the Health Centre are women who live in the hospital’s catchment area. Currently women give birth to about 3,200 babies annually and the hospital will have the capacity to expand to 4,000 births a year in the new OLM wing. This increase means St. Joe’s will be recruiting more doctors to deliver the additional babies.

Ann Holden, the Patient Care Manager for Family Birthing Centre and Women’s, Children’s and Family Health Program says, “From the community’s perspective, there will be more physicians accepting (pregnant) patients.” Not only will more women be able to give birth to their babies at their community hospital, but the Health Centre will also have the ability to care for more premature babies born anytime after 32 weeks gestation. The  NICU is expanding from 12 to 20 isolettes in order to care for the tiniest patients.

“We care for women 32 weeks gestation and above, so if there are doctors here taking those women (delivering prematurely) then we would have a bed for them,” says Holden. “It is really the ability to provide care closer to home for members of the community.”

Another way St. Joe’s caring for new mothers is by offering labour, birth and postpartum care all in the same room. All nurses are cross trained, or perinatal nurses, so they are qualified to care for pregnant women before, during and after they give birth to their baby at the Health Centre. The new wing will have 16 private rooms where labour, birth, recovery and postpartum can take place all in the same room without the need to relocate.
“From a patient-centered perspective there is genuinely a continuity of care. Because women won’t change locations after birth, there is the possibility for them to have the same nurse throughout that nurse’s shift,” says Holden.

“Families tend to like the fact they don’t have to relocate. They can arrive at the hospital and settle into the one room they will be in for their stay,” she adds. “The rooms are a little bit more spacious and they are private rooms so there’s the opportunity for the family to have some intimacy.” Women can also give birth in one room and then move to one of 10 private or one of 10 semi-private postpartum beds available down the hall.

St. Joseph’s aims to build genuine partnerships with our expectant mothers and their families and this means involving them in decisions and discussion around the best care plan for them.

“Women and their families are partners in all aspects of their care,” says Holden. “As part of an admission assessment, we identify what women and families’ wishes and plans are and always endeavour to meet them.”

This translates into all aspects of a woman’s birth plan including cultural and dietary considerations. And this also means welcoming a woman’s support team of whomever she defines as her family.

Besides helping patients welcome their new baby into the world, St. Joe’s also offers a number of programs and workshops before or after patients give birth. These range from first aid classes for new parents (with or without their baby in attendance), a new class on introducing babies to solid foods, mother and baby yoga, breast feeding clinic and prenatal classes for couples who are expecting a baby.

St. Joe’s also offers something very unique for a Toronto hospital. They host free onsite group classes for new mothers and their babies.  Laura Samaras, Coordinator, Childbirth Education at St. Joe’s says, “We are really well known in the community for this program. It is for any mother who wants to come. We are the only hospital that runs a program like this.” The current group of moms ranges from 12 to 15 women.

“This is where new moms come together to learn about the first few months of parenting,” adds Samaras. It’s also an opportunity for the women to speak to other mothers about any shared issues or experiences they are dealing with.”

This popular class also includes mothers who had their babies in other Toronto hospitals and provides an opportunity for them to bond with other women and become more familiar with all the programs and services St. Joe’s has to offer.

“It is important for new moms not to be isolated and to come out and meet other mothers. I have groups that I have taught where they are still getting together (socially) 16-17 years later as a group,” says Samaras.

The Women’s, Children’s, and Family Health program is looking forward to delivering more babies in the brand new OLM Patient Care Wing, and continuing to support  mothers and their families by involving them in a care plan before, during and after this important and exciting time in their lives.