Families, moms enjoy new maternity suite

HARLINGEN — Not what she expected.

And that’s a good thing.

Audrey Hooks spoke with a tired smile as she cradled her new daughter, Naomi, in the new Maternity Home Suite, which opened last month at Harlingen Medical Center.

“It’s been wonderful,” said Hooks, as her husband Matt stepped into her room. He’d spent the previous night sleeping in a pull-out leather couch in an adjoining room.

“It’s been a lot easier for me to help out and get Audrey whatever she needs and feeling refreshed and energized to hold the baby,” said Matt, 40.

The Hooks have two other children who were born in Austin. It was fine, but cramped, and definitely didn’t feel like home.

Now, thanks to some proactive efforts by the staff at HMC, there’s a little bit of a home to come to right after giving birth to a baby.

“We had patients inquiring about more space for family,” said Ursula Villarreal, director of Women’s Services at HMC.

“We wanted to make sure we had a family-centered room so that family can be there enjoying this occasion,” she said.

And family-centered it is.

A new rocking chair waits for some tired relative to take a break, perhaps after a long time getting there, or a long night helping with the baby.

Each room has its own restroom with a shower, as well as an entertainment center with wide-screen TV.

A burgundy red leather-upholstered chair sits against a wall.

“It still has everything for the patient side,” Villarreal said. “We still have everything that mom needs in case of emergency. It’s still ready for any type of patient that’s in that room. But it has more of a homey aesthetic appearance.”

“There are more home accents, like new lamps, a comforter,” said Patsy Muniz, bariatric coordinator for HMC.

“They’ve got a mini-fridge, a Keurig coffee machine,” Muniz added. “So things like that, just more décor and home accents.”

Villarreal thanked Matt Wolthoff, CEO, Michael Bergstrom, CFO, and Amy Flores, chief nursing officer, for supporting the effort.

Marketing Director Letty Mann was also a driving force.

“We got this idea and actually Letty’s the one who kind of led us into this and helped us get it going,” she said. “We worked together as a team to decide on the colors and make it blend well.”

She and Muniz also remembered what happened when the new suite opened Dec. 16.

“We had our first patient stay there, our first family, within the hour of it being open,” Villarreal said.

Harlingen Medical Center finished in the top decile nationally in Patient Experience and is also designated a Texas 10 step.

There has been talk of creating more suites, but the hospital is waiting to see how well the first one is received.

“It’s super,” said Matt Hooks.