New couplet care unit for infants and their mothers set to open at St. Luke’s

THE SPECIAL CARE NURSERY, a new unit offering couplet care for ill newborns and their mothers, is set to open at St. Luke’s Hospital in the coming weeks. / COURTESY SOUTHCOAST HEALTH

NEW BEDFORD – A new unit offering couplet care for ill newborns and their mothers is set to open at St. Luke’s Hospital in the coming weeks, announced Southcoast Health officials.

The 6,600-square-foot Special Care Nursey includes eight private bassinet rooms with couplet care quarters, which are designed to coordinate acute care for both infant and mother, a model that is relatively new to the state. The quarters are also equipped with airborne isolation capability in cases of transmissible viruses.

“This is a very big day for some of our very little patients, and it marks a major step forward in the already exceptional care that Southcoast’s dedicated nurses, physicians and staff provide with skill and compassion,” said Southcoast Health CEO and President Dr. Ray Kruger.

The Special Care Nursey is an addition to the recently renovated Stoico/FIRSTFED Women and Children’s Pavilion at St. Luke’s. It received approval from the Mass. Department of Public Health and will start receiving patients in the coming weeks.

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“The goal of couplet care is the provision of uninterrupted care of both mother and baby together from birth to discharge,” said neonatologist Dr. Jessica Slusarski. “We will be able to initiate care of eligible infants in the labor room with their mother, then continue the maternal postpartum care here in the Special Care Nursery in the same room as her baby. This is such an exciting advance in care for our patients, and it is very special to be one of the first hospitals in the state offering this option.

“We know that our patients’ time with us is relatively brief and transitioning a newborn’s care from hospital to home starts at admission,” Slusarski added. “We work hard to incorporate our parents and families into all aspects of patient care, from encouraging early skin-to-skin and kangaroo care to feeding to diaper changes and bathing. The Special Care Nursery environment is a crucial determinant of parental presence. We want families to feel welcome, comfortable and empowered during their time here.”

Other features in the facility include a state-of-the-art infant security system, central monitoring, and multiple prep, stabilization/triage, visitor and education spaces. The unit will also include a tribute to longtime nurse Sharon Souza, who worked as a registered nurse in the nursery for 42 years and is now a volunteer.

Kim Pina, executive director of St. Luke’s Women and Children’s Pavilion, said the Special Care Nursery will include a program called Sharon’s Library, which will gift a book to each family, made possible with books donated by Jill Fearons’ Friends of Jack Foundation.

“Sharon goes above and beyond for every patient, and never wants to be recognized for it,” Pina said. “She has gifted a book to every baby’s family before they leave the hospital, encouraging parents to read to their children to help with development.”

Claudia Chiappa is a PBN staff writer. You may contact her at

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