Women and children area - birthing suite on level four, Sunshine Coast University Hospital.
Women and children area - birthing suite on level four, Sunshine Coast University Hospital. Joshua Dasey

World-class birthing 'rooms' unveiled at new Coast hospital

PREGNANT women for whom the big day arrives on Wednesday will be the first to experience the new $1.8 billion Sunshine Coast University Hospital's innovative maternity facilities.

From 7am on Wednesday Nambour General Hospital will no longer be the place to go for women giving birth in the public system, with all maternity inpatient services moving to the new facility at the central Sunshine Coast suburb of Birtinya.

It has a host of features that have tongues wagging.

Private, single rooms

Each of the 11 birth suites is a single, private room with a bath for waterbirths, home-like design with a fold-out bed for partners to sleep in and medical equipment tidily stashed behind cupboards.

Each birthing room has its own temperature control, so mums can have the temperature as hot or cold as they like.

Nursing and midwifery service director for Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service, Cathy Styles, said the design mimics a bedroom rather than a hospital ward, in recognition of evidence that labour is easier and faster when mothers are able to relax and be comfortable.

"I guess in the past, design of birth suites have been around the staff that work there," she said.

"In the new hospital, it's all around the woman - the woman's comfort and the woman's privacy.

"We want women to feel more relaxed and then they labour better. Everything's private, it's all soundproofed, and you don't hear noise."

Ms Styles agreed Wednesday's milestone of opening was "huge" for staff as well as the Coast's expecting mothers.

"It's been a long time in the planning and to see it all come to fruition now ... it's such a beautiful hospital, particularly the birthing services are just really lovely," she said. "They're very home-like - they don't look like a hospital at all."

Waterbirths promoted

FACILITIES such as baths for waterbirth that were once reserved for women with low-risk pregnancies are now accessible to all mothers.

It's partly thanks to technology including waterproof, wi-fi-enabled foetal heart rate monitors that allow a woman in labour to move around - even walk outside if they want to - or submerge in water, while keeping track of her baby's heart rate and stress level.

It means the days of women being confined to a bed with stirrups are long over. The hospital's facilities allow women to have more choice.

"I guess our philosophy of care is we're having one birthing service but we're having more models of care," Ms Styles said. "We're all about having more choices for women.

"If you want your family here, your family can be here. If you want a waterbirth, you can have one. Some women will have a midwife in private practice, so their private midwife will come in with them. Some will be high risk with complications, so they'll have the obstetrician looking after them and a birth suite midwife."

Emergency access

FOR emergency arrivals, the women's and families service area has rapid access to the 'hot lifts' that run through the core of the hospital, providing dedicated transport of patients and specialists between key areas including maternity suites, theatres, and the helipad.

Birthing centre

IN a first for the Sunshine Coast, a four-room birthing centre within the same area as the birthing rooms provides a collaborative, midwife-led model of care for women with low-risk pregnancies.

The rooms share the same home-like design as the hospital's other birthing rooms, but one midwife working longer hours would be the primary carer, Ms Styles said.

Specialist doctors and midwives would "collaborate" but if no complications arise, a mother may not see any doctors through the course of her labour.

In response to community feedback, the health service is looking into adding double beds to the birthing centre, Ms Styles said.

While the birthing centre is the first on the Coast, Maternity Consumer Network spokeswoman Alecia Staines said it was a stretch to compare it to those available in Brisbane and Toowoomba, where all rooms were low-lit, hard edges were removed, double beds available and the space genuinely felt like a home.

Nonetheless, Ms Staines said the new hospital's facilities were a huge improvement on Nambour Hospital's.

"They seem more progressive compared to other areas, that's for sure," Ms Staines said.

The health service's Group Midwife Practice, which enabled 20% of pregnant woman to see the same midwife throughout their antenatal (pre-labour), birthing and postnatal (after-labour) care was exceptional, she said.

"In most hospitals, it's reserved (with) low risk women," she said. "But one of the benefits here it's all risk."

Women who wish to access the birthing centre should flag it in prenatal appointments with their doctor or midwife so it it recorded in their handheld birthing record, which staff at the new hospital will review on admission, Ms Styles said.

It would also be worth including in the birth preferences - or birth plan - that many women provide on admission, she said.

Hospital sparks baby boom

MORE than 2600 babies are born on the Coast every year, but with new hospital that number is expected to rise and there has already been a 20% increase in bookings.

"I think the location of the new hospital is closer for a lot of women, especially women at the southern end of the Sunshine Coast," Ms Styles said.

"Perhaps before they would have gone to Caboolture to have their babies."

Asked whether patients from local private hospitals, including at Buderim, would likely now choose the public system, Ms Styles said she wouldn't speculate but agreed it was a possibility.

"The only difference (for mothers) is you wouldn't have a private obstetrician in the public system," she said.

Midwife home visits

ALL mothers have access to the health service's Extended Midwivery Service, which has four midwives on the road visiting new mums in the first two weeks after a baby is born.

The midwives help new mums with breastfeeding, provide checks on the babies in the home, allowing women to discharge within one or two days on average, Ms Styles said.

Where to park

IF it's your first time visiting the new hospital, plan ahead to make sure you end up in the car park nearest your destination.

For most maternity patients, the main multi-level car park P1 is the place to go. You can cross to the main hospital building via a pedestrian bridge on level one.

But if you're in a hurry because labour is advanced, go to the Fraser car park.

You'll need to be in communication with hospital staff who can let you through the boom gate, but this car park provides direct access to the birth suites.

Parents' retreat

THE new hospital's neonatal unit houses a parents' retreat, with a kitchen and lounge facilities including an outside balcony.

Director of neonatology Dr Lizelle Weber said the neonatal unit would be available for parents whose baby needs to be in hospital for longer-term monitoring and care until it is safe for them to go home.

Funded by Wishlist, the space has three double ensuite rooms for parents to stay in with their baby while preparing to take them home, toward the end of their stay.

"It's a beautiful space for parents going through a difficult time," Dr Weber said.

"I'm sure it will be a great comfort to our parents knowing they have a place to rest and relax, as well as the best clinical care for their little one."

Antenatal appointments at SCUH are also enhanced compared to existing SCHHS facilities, with a day assessment unit for pregnancy assessment.

This dedicated space will be used for mothers-to-be who need assessment for pregnancy complications such as obesity, high blood pressure and gestational diabetes, and includes an outside space for women to get some fresh air during their appointments.

Purpose-built antenatal consulting rooms and the latest equipment mean that a number of assessments, including ultrasounds, can take place in the clinic rooms.

Dr Miller said improved access and quality of ultrasound scanning will allow prompt assessment in pregnancy.

"(It's) yet another way we are able to ease the stress on women and their families," he said.

"The birth suites, rapid access to theatres, and expertise at one site demonstrate our emphasis on the safety and quality at SCUH for mothers and babies.

"In turn, this represents the collaborative model of care that we practice, with midwives and obstetricians working as a team with our parents-to-be.

"The choices available for women combined with expert assessment and a collaborative approach mean that together we can offer the best option for each individual mum-to-be."

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