Power to choose
Perinatal palliative care offer parents options
Those who give birth to a terminally ill child have little time to enjoy precious moments. Hoping to give families a chance to make the most of their short, sweet time with their newborns, Women’s Hospital in Newburgh, Ind., in October 2009 began a perinatal palliative-care program designed to provide parents with choices.
Notably, while babies born with fatal anomalies typically spend their brief lives in neonatal intensive-care units, the hospital figured some parents might find it empowering to at least be able to take their babies home.
More broadly, this Hand in Hand program provides a team that offers palliative care and relieve physical, psychological and spiritual suffering. Staff gathers mementos such as ultra- sound pictures, clothing and blankets.
For this thoughtfulness, the 74-bed hospital has received the Spirit of Excellence Award in the CARES category. CARES stands for compassion, accountability, respect, enthusiasm and service.
“We wanted to provide them with options,” says Darlene Fischer, Resolve Through Sharing bereavement services coordinator, who helped launch the program.
CEO Christina Ryan says the default assumption always had been that terminally ill babies should stay in the NICU, “Until somebody like Darlene, and others, say, ‘Why? Why do we have to do that?’ ”
The challenge will be getting reimbursement for hospice care provided outside the NICU. While a stay in the NICU would be reimbursed without question, “You don’t want to get paid to do the wrong things,” Ryan adds. “We want to do what’s right for the family. And it ends up being a benefit to healthcare costs, in general.”
The Women’s Hospital gives patients the option to take terminally ill babies home.