Red Cross honors Cape Cod Hospital innovators
A team of Cape Cod Hospital employees will be honored this week for their innovative efforts to help some of the area’s most vulnerable patients. The award is for the hospital’s work with mothers with substance use histories and their babies.
The Red Cross of the Cape, Islands and Southeast Massachusetts will recognize the Cape Cod Hospital Maternity and Pediatric Departments at its 15th annual Heroes Breakfast on Friday, April 7 at the Resort and Conference Center in Hyannis. The award will be presented on behalf of the two departments to Sharon Daley, MD, chief of pediatrics; Dian Birch, director of woman’s and children services at Cape Cod Hospital; Rosanna Burke RN, supervisor and educator, nursing staff; and Daniel Rodrigues, the maternity department social worker.
“Honoring the Cape Cod Hospital group grew out of the desire from our Heroes Committee to show who the heroes are in the fight against opiate addiction that is ravaging our community,” said Hilary V. Greene, executive director of the American Red Cross of the Cape, Islands & Southeast Mass. Chapter. “This is an amazing group of people who work hard to make these babies’ entry into life a little better and a lot more gentle.”
Judith C. Quinn, MSN, RN-BC, Cape Cod Hospital’s vice president for patient care, nominated the two departments for the award. She said the four people accepting the award are standing in for the entire team.
“They were the ones who helped organize this and got the ball rolling,” she said. “You have a physician lead, you need to have a nursing lead, but the entire staff did all the work.
“I’m very proud of the work that was done by a dedicated group of professionals who took it upon themselves to address a need in our community.”
In her nomination letter, Quinn wrote, “Like many communities across the U.S., Barnstable County is struggling with the impact of the opioid epidemic and substance use on the entire community, especially newborns, and the need to develop new models of care has been recognized.”
Numbers Have Gone Up
Dr. Daley, a pediatrician at Seaside Pediatrics in West Yarmouth, saw this first-hand. “The first baby that we cared for with withdrawal symptoms was back in 2007,” she said. “By 2009, we realized the numbers were increasing significantly in Barnstable County as well as in the state of Massachusetts.”
In 2009, Cape Cod Hospital had 12 births of substance-exposed newborns and the numbers have steadily gone up. In 2015, about 5 percent of babies delivered at Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital were born after having been exposed to substances in utero, and about 3 percent were diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), a condition that requires follow-up care.
“When we first started to see our increase in numbers, we contacted our colleagues at Floating Hospital for Children and Boston Medical Center – the neonatologists and specialists in substance abuse – and worked on developing a protocol for treating these babies, and we’ve tweaked that over the years,” she said.
Dr. Daley said that from the start, the team took a community-based, multi-disciplinary approach to caring for the babies and their families.
In addition to the maternity and pediatric departments, that meant working with the obstetrics department, community support groups for mothers, Mass. Department of Children and Families consultants, the local Angel House recovery program for mothers and the Early Intervention Program.
The Moms Do Care program was designed for mothers with substance-abuse histories. They can enroll early in their pregnancy and receive peer support and mentoring until six months after delivery.
One Of The First
Cape Cod Hospital was one of the first hospitals in Massachusetts to place babies with NAS in the pediatric ward with their mothers, rather than in the newborn ICU, according to Dr. Daley.
“Our nurses are dedicated to teaching these families how to care for their often very fragile babies,” she said.
Early Intervention follows the babies for at least a year and sometimes up to three years to monitor their developmental progress, she said.
“Cape Cod Hospital was the first hospital in Massachusetts to refer all of these babies to Early Intervention, while the babies are still in the hospital,” Dr. Daley said. “Now our program is a model for other hospitals in the state.”
Thanks to those programs, these children can avoid starting life with some huge disadvantages.
“Most of the babies are doing quite well,” Dr. Daley said. “All of the local pediatricians are now experienced in following these children in their offices. We have a lot of success stories.”
In 2016, Cape Cod Hospital was among the first hospitals in Massachusetts to be designated by the Vermont Oxford Network as a Center of Excellence in Education and Training for Substance-Exposed Infants and Their Families.
While caring for substance-exposed newborns and their mothers is a priority, Dr. Daley hopes it won’t always be necessary.
“I think the next step is working on prevention, so that mothers don’t end up needing this kind of care. That’s the ultimate goal,” she said.