CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Kim Leal, left and Jon Leal watch baby Jonathan take a nap Friday at Plains Regional Medical Center. Jonathan was one day old.
By Eric Butler:Freedom New Mexico
Plains Regional Medical Center may have been showing a little when it set new records in 2008 for child births.
Now, it’s positively burgeoning as a wave of babies, at least by the hospital’s own past standards, have been born the last six months.
The Clovis hospital averaged around 90 births a month during ‘08 and set new statistical records in that department.
But that’s likely to be an old record soon as Plains has averaged over 100 deliveries a month since June.
On Friday, 14 newborns were waiting to be sent home with their families.
“That’s a lot of babies in one day. Sometimes mother nature brings them all within hours,” PRMC Administrator Hoyt Skabelund said. “This is a pretty heavy delivery volume, so we’re careful to staff appropriately.”
For a hundred mile radius, Plains Regional is the primary hospital in the area for delivering babies.
Sometimes expectant mothers come from even further away.
Kim Leal, 38, traveled 168 miles from Clayton to deliver a 7-pound son, Jonathan, Thursday morning.
“They make it real easy for you here. It was comfortable,” said Leal, who had been made aware of the other births taking place, but only through hearsay. “It’s been kind of peaceful. I haven’t heard them honestly.”
“We have 12 beds and we usually have about 8 to 10, but sometimes we get full,” said Kim Barnes, a charge nurse at PRMC. “Everybody knows what it’s like to work those busy days, but our staff is really good about coming in and working extra.”
Skabelund said staffing issues aren’t the primary problem when multiple births take place in a short period of time.
“Space is probably our biggest dilemma…sometimes we can’t offer private rooms,” Skabelund said.
“We have built some overflow capacity into our surgical unit. Infant security is always a concern, so we had to extend that system to a number of beds in the surgical unit,” he added. “It’s been a challenge, but we hope in the coming years to expand our women’s unit.”
The increased volume of births at his hospital in 2008, according to Skabelund, could be partially attributed to more mothers in and around the Tucumcari area traveling to Clovis to deliver.
Tucumcari’s only obstetrician stopped delivering babies a few years ago and some nearby mothers chose to head south rather than east to Amarillo or west to Albuquerque.
As for the current baby boom, though, accounting for the increase is more difficult.
Skabelund said teenage mothers, a significant source of births in recent years, has not decreased.
“I don’t have an explanation other than the growth associated with Cannon Air Force Base. One thing we knew with Cannon’s change of mission, is that Special Ops has a different demographic,” Skabelund said. “They tend to be younger. We’re not saying teenagers, but we’re saying 20s and early 30s and that tends to be typical child-bearing years.”