Parents of Newborns Provided with Early Discharge Option Courtesy of Hospital Midwives

COVID-19 has prompted a re-examination of every process at Guelph General Hospital, including in our Rotary Club of Guelph Family Birthing Unit. The pandemic created the urgency to get new moms and babies discharged quickly to avoid potential exposure and to free up nursing capacities. This spurred the creation of our new Early Discharge Program, officially launched May 1, 2021.

In the past, only patients under the care of midwives were able to go home before the post-partum nurses performed ‘well baby’ tests, which are the established best practices for infant care. The tests need to be performed between 24 to 48 hours after birth and include newborn and congenital heart defect screenings and a jaundice test. Alongside the COVID-19 concern, thinking around maternal care has seen changes to keep moms in hospital only as long as medically necessary.

And so, the Chiefs of our Obstetrics and Midwifery Departments and Family Birthing Unit nursing staff worked together to figure out how more families could go home sooner. They created the Early Discharge Program, which provides a home visit by a midwife who completes the newborn tests, a weight check, and provides support and assistance with infant feeding. During the first seven months, 94 families have received visits and feedback has been universally positive from all involved.

Judy Hayes and her husband, Dan, were thrilled when they were told they could go home ahead of the 24-hour ‘well baby’ checks. While their family had been cared for during pregnancy by an obstetrician, they were pleased to be able to receive this post-birth appointment with a midwife.

Judy and Dan had a daughter waiting at home who was excited to meet her new baby sister, Brooklyn. “If we were first-time parents, perhaps we would have wanted to stay longer but we preferred to get home to Summer and get some rest where we would be more comfortable,” explained Judy.

On her first home visit with Brooklyn, Registered Midwife Shana Blackburn noted a second screen for jaundice would be required and was able to arrange it for the following day. As Judy was bottle-feeding the baby, Shana reviewed the use of a slow flow nipple and alternating sides during feedings to promote brain development. She also reviewed the amounts and timing of feedings, the benefit of skin-to-skin contact, and answered questions from Judy and Dan. Judy was also checked to ensure her vital signs were normal and she was recovering well.

Dan expressed sincere appreciation for the option of an early discharge. “It is more comfortable to be in our own space. More private and relaxing. I could feel my anxiety going down once we were back home. The visits with Shana are not rushed and we have time to ask questions, which is amazing.”

After each visit, Shana sent a report to Judy and Brooklyn’s family doctor to ensure the continuity of care for mom and baby.

Shana shared, “Midwives are used to home visiting as a way to provide care, and are happy to support our community and our Hospital this way. It is wonderful to be able to offer this type of support to birthing parents, whether or not they had a midwife during pregnancy.”

Sarah Cressman, Chief of Midwifery for Guelph General Hospital agrees. “We have known for quite some time that many families want the option of an early discharge. If the birthing parent and baby are well, the ‘well baby’ test schedule shouldn’t be determining their length of stay in hospital.”

Thanks to our Courtyard Boutique for providing these lovely “I was born at Guelph General Hospital” gifts to Brooklyn in appreciation for Judy and Dan sharing their story with us.