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Porter Hospital welcomed a near-record 43 babies in July

MIDDLEBURY — July was a happy month in the birthing center at Porter Medical Center, which played host to a near-record 42 births — producing 43 babies.
“July was closer to one of our bigger months ever,” said Ron Hallman, the vice president for Public Relations at Porter, which is part of UVM Health Network. “An average month is 22 (births). Last July, as a point of reference, we had 26 births.”
Originally, the month was slated to be an all-time high. “Sometime in June, we figured there were about 52 expectant moms for July, which was a record,” said Dr. Jodi Brown, an obstetrician at Porter. “(But) some delivered a little earlier, and we still have one or two left.”
Hallman said that Porter staff couldn’t point to any events back in October that would’ve caused an uptick in new babies nine months later. Instead, he suggested, it’s the quality of Porter’s care that attracts expectant parents from around the Champlain Valley.
“What it says is that our birthing center, both facility and providers — physicians, nurse midwives and nurses — have gained a reputation for being outstanding providers of maternity care,” he said, noting increasing numbers of patients from Rutland County and New York state.
“We’ve had some people travel an hour and a half, two hours from where they live to come over to us,” Brown said. While she’s proud of Porter’s broad appeal, Brown noted that ideally, women would be able find their desired care closer to home.
Linda Havey, the nurse manager for the birthing center, said that Porter’s staff have been working steadily on improving their practices.
“We offer a range of services — medicated birth, epidural — we go out of our way to be patient-centered in our care,” she said. “In May, 22 of our nurses went to a class we held here called ‘Spinning Babies,’ about optimal positioning for birth.”
While the birthing center facility was updated back in 2005, Hallman said, the recent difference-maker has been the quality of patient care.
“Our nurses rank in the 99th percentile nationwide according to our patient satisfaction scores,” he said. “Our nursing staff is practically at the top of the list nationwide for patient satisfaction. You combine great nurses, a collaborative environment between providers, and a great facility and the word gets out.”
Porter’s growing popularity stands out, given broader trends in the state. “Last year, we noticed we were one of the only hospitals in Vermont with an increasing birth rate, given that Vermont has a decreasing overall birth rate,” Havey said.
The influx of patients has left the hospital fairly crowded, but Havey said that staff made it work.
“It involves some creative thinking, but we’ve done really well,” she said. “It’s hard when you’re tired as a staff. But this is somebody’s life event that we’re witnessing — we’re really honored to be there. One thing I love about the staff here is that every single person lives that. Even when we’re tired I still see them connecting with patients in a real way.”
“We all have an understanding that birth isn’t just a medical event, but a life-changing event for an entire family,” Brown said.
The phenomenon began well before July. Hallman noted that in 2017, Porter delivered more babies than any other community hospital in Vermont.
“It’s not just a blip, it’s a trend,” he said.
It appears that trend will continue into August: Porter is expecting 38 births this month.

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