Early Discharge Program Offers Support to New Parents During COVID-19

Francesca Hume knew the birth of her baby was going to be a lot different than what she had planned.

The first-time mom – who delivered her son Elijah at Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) on April 8 – is one of many women who have had to alter their birth plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Although the staff went above and beyond to ensure every detail was taken care of, visitor restrictions at the time meant my mom could not be physically present for the delivery like I had hoped and my husband had to leave soon after our son was born,” explains Francesca.

However, the family was reunited and Francesca and little Elijah were home a few short hours later, thanks to the early discharge program at MSH.

A collaboration between the midwives in the hospital’s Alongside Midwifery Unit and staff and physicians in the Childbirth unit, the early discharge program allows healthy moms and babies to be discharged within six hours and receive follow-up care within 24 hours from a midwife.

“This program is a testament to the innovative spirit at MSH and the hospital’s commitment to providing safe, patient-centred care during COVID-19,” says Stephanie Zaheer, MSH midwife and coordinator of the early discharge program.

Stephanie and her colleague Elaina Ferrari deliver the full range of services that regular midwifery clients receive, including conducting a postpartum check on the mom, routine bloodwork for the baby and providing breastfeeding support.

For Francesca, who works as a labour and delivery nurse at MSH, the early discharge program was “such a gift.”

“Even knowing all that I do with my clinical background, the experience of being a first time parent during such a challenging time was overwhelming,” Francesca says.

Stephanie weighs Francesca's new baby

“Stephanie took the time to review any issues we were having in caring for our son and talk to me about how I was feeling physically and emotionally. She asked questions about things that even I didn’t think of.

“I also really appreciated the many ways Stephanie delivered safe care while in my home, including wearing a mask, washing her hands frequently and thoroughly cleaning anything she would be using during her examinations.”

Since its launch on April 3, the early discharge program has provided care to more than 50 moms and babies.

As well, an online group has been developed where moms can connect with a midwife to ask clinical questions about newborn and self-care, as well as obtain support from other moms – something Francesca is eager to take advantage of.

“I feel so fortunate to have had such excellent support available to me so quickly,” adds Francesca. “The outstanding midwifery care truly goes hand-in-hand with the incredible care provided by the doctors and nurses.”