Baby boom — PRMC hopes to expand maternity unit

Kristin Cross holds the second of her three boys — Jensen — to be delivered at Plains Regional Medical Center. (Staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Snuggled inside the hospital is a place that brings babies, such as tiny Jensen Cross, into the world.

Less than 24 hours old, Jensen almost disappeared Friday beneath a blanket in the arms of his mother, Kristin Cross.

Of her three boys, Jensen is the second Cross has delivered at the Plains Regional Medical Center Women’s Unit.

“You feel at home here, under the circumstances,” said Cross, 27, her newborn cradled in the curve of her arm.

More and more newborns are being delivered at PRMC, according to PRMC officials.
In the past 10 years, the number of babies delivered in the Women’s Unit has steadily climbed from an average of 80 to an average of 120 per month, according to PRMC officials.

Birth rates boomed this fall, with a record-breaking 149 babies born in September and 148 in October. Typically, birth rates do soar in those months.

“The winter, January and February, is snuggle weather,” said Jana Flores, director
of the PRMC Women’s and Children’s Unit.

The recent retirement of a Tucumcari obstetrician has pushed PRMC beyond records, Flores speculates.

Because births at the center have risen persistently and more Clovis growth is
expected with the establishment of a new Air Force mission in coming years, PRMC
administrators are planning an expansion of the Women’s Unit.

The Air Force Special Operations 16th Wing assumes ownership of Cannon Air Force Base in 2007.

PRMC Administrator Hoyt Skabelund said Air Force officials have shared that the 16th SOW will need a bigger maternity ward.

“They go out on six-month deployments, and when they come back babies are born,” Skabelund said Air Force officials joked.

PRMC studies indicate 10 to 15 newborns delivered monthly at PRMC are from Cannon military families. About four to five additional Tucumcari babies have been delivered monthly since the retirement of the Tucumcari obstetrician, Flores said.

Minus those births, the unit is still thriving. Births at PRMC have grown along with the population of Clovis, and more Texas residents in places such as Bovina, Farwell and Muleshoe are opting to deliver at PRMC, according to Flores. Roosevelt General Hospital in Portales does not have a maternity ward.

Roughly 85 percent of babies born in PRMC’s service area — comprised of 110,000 people living within a 100-mile radius of Clovis — are delivered by the Women’s Unit, according to PRMC officials.

To accommodate expecting families, PRMC purchased new fetal monitors in 2006 and upgraded its computers in 2005, PRMC officials said. Fifty-five people are employed in the Women’s Unit. The majority are registered nurses, Flores said.

Architects are in the process of designing a ward expansion, Flores said. Pending circumstances, a unit expansion could be undertaken in late 2007, according to PRMC Chief Operating and Chief Nurse Officer Liz Crouch.

Families who come to the Women’s Unit and those who operate it regard their roles dearly.

“To know that the Lord is trusting one of his precious lives with you … it’s an honor,” said Cross, who recovered from her Caesarean section at PRMC Friday.

“Seeing a family that looks at their baby for the first time … we have such an impact on that family’s first couple instants,” Crouch said.

“When a dad starts to cry, it gets me every time,” Flores chimed in.

“I love this place,” she said of the welcome unit for families.