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Do 'luxury' birthing suites compromise overall care?

Nurses, hospital executives debate private suites, staffing issues

Topics: Women's Services, Service Lines, Pediatrics, Care Coordination, Methodologies, Performance Improvement, Appropriateness, Quality, Access to Care, Outcomes, Patient Satisfaction, Safety, Nursing

October 22, 2012

Nurses say that luxurious, private birthing suites—like the one used by superstar Beyoncé earlier this year—strain nurse-to-newborn ratios and may put other patients' lives at risk.

At one Manhattan hospital, a patient can receive one-on-one nursing care for up to $1,750 per night in an "executive suite" that features blond wood floors, high-end bed linens, plush terry cloth robes, and two plasma screen TVs, according to a nurse at the hospital. Altogether, the average post-partum stay in the hospital's most expensive suite costs about $5,250, not including medical care.

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But staffing the suites can mean fewer nurses in the general maternity ward, nurses told the New York Daily News.

For example, an infant recently delivered in the middle of the night pulled away one of two nurses assigned to the general nursery, leaving the other nurse with 18 newborns, one nurse says. By contract, nurses at the hospital are only supposed to work with eight infants at a time, according to Eileen Toback, the chief of staff at the New York Professional Nurses Union.

"These units are incredibly busy and there are not enough nurses and ancillary staff," Toback told the Daily News. The union is currently in contract talks with the hospital and last week gave its leadership permission to strike.

According to a hospital spokesperson, the executive suites do not diminish staffing of the general maternity ward. "At no point was our maternity unit understaffed," she said, adding, "Due to the fluid nature of patient volume in maternity units, it is standard procedure for all hospitals to have the flexibility to move staff to best serve the needs of their patients" (Smith, Daily News, 10/18).

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