Maimonides Medical Center’s bustling obstetrics unit is the busiest in New York State – with a record 7,746 New Yorkers born at the Brooklyn hospital last year.
This year shows no sign of letting up.
“It’s a little bit like being an air-traffic controller,” said nursing director Carol Kidney. “They come, they go, they come again. It never stops.”
With 11 labor and delivery rooms and 60 postpartum beds in one hospital, and a state law that says new moms have to be discharged in 48 hours, it’s a daily dance of musical beds and babies.
One recent morning there were 90 newborns in the nursery – “a little city of babies,” said Dr. Howard Minkoff, the chairman of obstetrics and gynecology.
“To be honest, we are overwhelmed,” said Minkoff, who oversees a medical team of 100. “We want to give people the most wonderful experience we can in creature comforts – their bagel and baby and two restful days here – but wonderful is second to safety.”
After other area hospitals closed, there are many days when the maternity floor at Maimonides looks more like an overbooked hotel with the entire staff scrambling to handle the overflow. On those days, it’s not uncommon for women who just gave birth to be waiting in a hallway for a room to be cleared and remade.
“Despite how busy they are, they do an outstanding job,” said a spokesman for FOJP, the hospital’s malpractice insurer.
Maimonides’ CEO Pamela Brier said the hospital has invested over $10 million in recent years to assure patient safety.
On the busiest of days, the delicate task of moving moms in and out falls to Malkie Gips, the sunny patient representative.
“You just give them a little noodge, and most people are very sympathetic,” she said. “I say, ‘Remember two days ago when you were waiting downstairs for a room, how lousy that felt? Maybe your husband can pick you up before lunch? Or your mother?’ It’s not my favorite part of the job.”
Apart from the Orthodox Jewish community, which accounts for about half of the births each year, the hospital serves a large influx of Chinese families now living in Sunset Park. Mothers from Latin America, the Caribbean, Bangladesh and good old Bensonhurst are also plentiful.
An ad campaign bragged Maimonides can say “goo-goo in 68 different languages.”
“This is a brand-new unit and we are already outgrowing it,” said Dr. Susan Shi, standing in Mei Chen’s modern room, painted in soothing pastel colors.