Wollongong Hospital Birthing Unit Upgrade Project

Project Outline

The NSW Government has committed $2.2 million to upgrade Wollongong Hospital’s Birthing Unit, which will deliver a major transformation to provide a more modern, functional and welcoming birthing space for local women and families.

Plans for the refurbished unit will include remodeling assessment areas and bathrooms to better support modern birthing standards. Waiting areas will be enhanced to facilitate an improved flow through the unit and the colour scheme will be inspired by nature to provide a more calming setting. The Hospital has worked closely with consumer and community groups, such as Better Births Illawarra, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and the Illawarra Baby and Child Loss Support Group, to ensure local women and the wider community have had input into the new design.

    Temporary Birthing Unit

    Wollongong Hospital’s Birthing Unit was last upgraded two decades ago and, after welcoming 40,000 babies since then, is in need of redevelopment to modernise the facility to better support birthing women.

    It is not safe or practical to undertake the construction with women, families and staff using the ward, therefore a decision was made to temporarily relocate the unit for up to six months in order to allow birthing services to continue at Wollongong while the redevelopment work is undertaken.

    The temporary space is a former intensive care unit that has been fully refurbished to accommodate birthing with the safety of women and babies our highest priority.

    The temporary space is located on the same level as the current birthing unit. It is close to operating theatres in case of emergency, lifts open directly to the entrance, and the unit is easily accessible at all hours from both hospital entrances.

    As the region’s largest hospital, Wollongong has very limited capacity to relocate entire wards. The option to move to this temporary location has involved significant investigation of all available spaces, planning, extensive logistics and consultation with midwives, doctors and a number of other hospital teams.

    We want to assure women and their families that this decision has been made with the safety of women and their babies as our highest priority. Our staff are fully committed to making your birthing experience the best it can be. We acknowledge this change will bring questions and concerns and have developed the following information to help answer some of your questions.

    For a virtual walk through of the Temporary Birthing Unit please view this YouTube video - Wollongong Hospital Temporary Birthing Unit Walk Through.

    Questions & Answers

    When will the Birthing Unit works start?

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    The contract was awarded in mid-December 2019. A preliminary program for the work has construction starting on 22 January, 2020 with the exact timeline to be finalised in early 2020. We have developed a detailed operational plan to support the transition of the current service into the temporary unit to ensure there is minimal disruption. The physical process of moving to the temporary unit will begin a few days before construction starts to limit the amount of time spent in the temporary unit. The exact date and time of the move may vary depending on circumstances at that particular time.    

    When will the work finish?

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    Works are estimated to be completed by mid-2020.

    Where is the Temporary Birthing Unit?

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    Level 2, same level as the existing Birthing Unit and Level 2 Gynae Clinic just around the corner.

    How many delivery suites are available?

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    There are seven delivery suites. This is the same number as currently available. It is rare to have all birthing suites fully utilised at any one point in time. The suites are smaller than existing rooms, but there is space for birthing props including balls and stools.

    Do the rooms have private ensuites?

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    Unfortunately, not all rooms have ensuites. There is one room with ensuite facilities, which will be utilised on a needs basis with priority given to women with complex needs or additional clinical support. For many reasons, ensuites cannot be added to the temporary ward. We know this is less than ideal, but please be assured that our staff will work with you to make your stay as comfortable as possible.

    How will the room with the ensuite be allocated?

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    All rooms will be allocated based on the clinical needs of the women at the time. The room with the ensuite will be a last option to enable an additional shower to be available. Women with complex needs or requiring a higher level of clinical support will be given priority. 

    Where are bathrooms located?

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    There are two bathrooms with self-contained showers and toilets that are located in the Birthing Unit, plus the ensuite. There are two other toilets located within the facility. Women who do not want to leave their room to toilet can be supported. A large portion of our mums do not use bathrooms during labour as they opt for epidural pain relief.

    Will I have access to showers during labour?

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    Yes. This will be managed by the midwives supporting the women in labour. The majority of women birthing at Wollongong do not use water for pain relief and almost half of our birthing women opt for epidural, so demand for showers during labour is not high. It is also rare that women will be in the same stages of labour at the same time and using the showers.

    Will the bathrooms be regularly cleaned?

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    As with the current birthing unit, there is a cleaner available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All facilities will be maintained in accordance with strict hospital infection control standards, which means bathrooms and toilets are regularly monitored, cleaned and disinfected through scheduled cleaning, and as required, and after each use.

    Will birthing pools or baths be available during labour?

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    There are no baths in the temporary unit and due to the size of the rooms, birthing pools cannot be accommodated. There is also a safety risk with birthing pools in the temporary facility for a number of reasons, including appropriate plumbing to support filling and emptying of baths.

    Are there any alternative spaces in the hospital where the birthing unit could be located?

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    Unfortunately not. A number of options have been thoroughly considered during an extensive consultation period. The safety of mothers and babies was the highest priority when making the decision on the location of the temporary space. The current location is the safest option should a woman need to be transferred to the operating theatre in an emergency, and/or if the baby requires immediate intervention. This option will also cause the least disruption to the post-natal ward, where women spend the most amount of time during their hospital stay.

    What is the best drop off point for the Temporary Birthing Unit?

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    Loftus Street main entrance. Go straight in past the reception desk and take the first set of lifts. The temporary Birthing Unit doorway is next to the lifts. Wayfinding signage will be installed.

    When will signs go up?

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    Wayfinding signs will go up to advise how to get to the Temporary Birthing Unit on the day of the move.

    Can I still have 3 support people in the room?

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    Yes, you can still have 3 support people in your room. There is also a large terrace area outside of the Temporary Birthing Unit available for support people if they need a respite area.

    Will refreshment be available for support people?

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    Yes, tea and coffee facilities will be provided in the waiting area.

    Can we have a tour of the temporary unit?

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    Tours of the facility were held on 9 and 11 January 2020. Tours will be limited once the temporary unit is in use to maintain provacy of the women in labour. A virtual walkthrough of the Temporary Birthing Unit is available on YouTube - Wollongong Hospital Temporary Birthing Unit Walk Through.

    Will the waiting room location impact privacy?

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    In response to feedback regarding the location of the existing waiting area, we undertook a review of the available options. In particular, we investigated the possibility of moving the waiting area to an alternate space at the back of the unit. It was suggested this alternate area may offer women in labour, who are walking around the unit, more privacy. Following a full assessment of the options and considering all of the benefits, impacts and risks of moving the waiting area it was determined that the waiting area will remain in the original location.

    The reasons for this decision include:  

    • Safety - the area suggested as an alternative waiting room needs to be used for women who need an emergency C-section. This location has the most direct route to the operating theatre and maintains a level of privacy for those women, as they do not have to be wheeled through a waiting area to get to theatre.  
    • Privacy and access - the existing waiting area is a larger space with direct access from the entrance and to the reception area, meaning people will not have to walk past patient rooms to get to reception.

    To address concerns raised, privacy screens have been placed at two locations within the waiting space and our team will work with mums, support people and other hospital staff to maintain privacy. Support people are reminded toilets in the unit are for the use of pregnant women and public amenities are located near the lift entrance to the Birthing Unit. There is also a respite area adjacent to the entrance, where support people can wait or take a break.

    How will we keep up to date with what is happening?

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    There will be regular project updates posted on this site and your midwife or doctor can provide you with information.

    Wollongong Hospital will also mail out any correspondence required to ensure families are aware of any changes to dates. Please ensure you notify the Administration staff of the Antenatal Clinic (ANC) if your address details change.

    Contact

    If you have any concerns please speak with your Midwife or Doctor.