Ithaca, N.Y. — The last thing anyone needs in the middle of a birth is to have to think about transportation.

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Under the old system, however, mothers at the Cayuga Medical Center who needed a C-section had to be taken to separate operating room. That required planning, coordinating schedules and a lot of unnecessary steps.

“They had to call the (operating room), page the anesthesiologist, get the staff,” recalls Terri MacCheyne RN, who has been helping deliver babies since the 1980s.

All that wasted movement has now been cut. In July 2014, CMC opened the multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art maternity ward named “Cayuga Birthplace.”

Terri MacCheyne

Though still in its infancy, the wide-ranging benefits of “Cayuga Birthplace” are already clear, MacCheyne, the director of the maternity ward.

One of those benefits is that the previously separate operating room is now integrated as part of the maternity ward.

“We used to have to take the patients all the way to the operating room; sometimes they’d have to be recovered there,” MacCheyne says.

“It’s great because we can do our own C-section right on our unit now — we don’t have to take them to another area.”

The hospital was ranked in the top 10 percent nationwide for patient satisfaction in maternity care even before the new center opened, according to John Turner, vice president of CMC public relations.

A recent tour of the new maternity ward showed why hospital staff are optimistic that the ranking will only improve. The ward is expected to see 900 deliveries a year, Turner said.

“The staff is so happy; it’s so much more efficient to take care of the patients,” MacCheyne says.

Here are 5 other benefits of the new ward, as outlined by CMC staff:

1 — Lower C-section rate

New efficiencies from the maternity unit have driven down the C-section rate “by a fairly significant rate,” according to MacCheyne.

Because the operating room is located within the new maternity unit, the already low C-section rate has been reduced even further, according to MacCheyne.

2 — Private rooms

In the old system, mothers who had just given birth sometimes had to share the same room as another mother.

That wasn’t ideal for obvious reasons, particularly because families were often on different sleep schedules, according to hospital staff.

Now, it’s simpler: One family, one room.

3 — Fold-out couches, whirlpool tubs in ‘LDRs’

One of the more immediately striking features of Cayuga Birthplace is the sleek, lush quality of the furniture, which in some ways seem like they’d belong in a 5-star hotel as much as a hospital.

The new labor rooms are about twice as big, “so families can have their space and we’re not constantly telling them, ‘You have to move over; you have to move over,’” according to MacCheyne.

That includes couches that fold-out so spouses can spend the night and whirlpool tubs for mothers to relax.

These “LDRs” rooms — LDR stands for labor, delivery, and recovery — also have “telemetry” devices allowing for mothers to move in the unit (and into the whirlpool) while still having the fetus be monitored.

The jacuzzi/whirlpool tubs can be very helpful for labor, according to MacCheyne.

“Water is very helpful during labor; it helps relieve pain,” she says.

 4 — Strangers: Do not pass go

Enhanced security in the new ward is another key feature. MacCheyne says that no babies have been stolen in the time she’s been at CMC, but that this has proven a horrifying problem at other hospitals in the country.

Now, there’s a new front doorway for all visitors to the maternity ward and visitors are required to wear identification badges.

“We always match the baby with the mom,” MacCheyne says, “And we teach them: ‘If someone doesn’t have their name badge, don’t give them your baby.’”

5 — No interruption

Nifty new windows also allow supervisors to check in on the babies and the mothers without a risk of either being woken up. 

“I can check the baby,” MacCheyne says. “without disturbing the family.”

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.