LEE COUNTY, Fla. — There’s a baby boom happening at Lee County hospitals.
ABC7 recently told you about a record-breaking day at Health Park. On July 11, doctors there delivered more babies than ever before in a 24-hour period. They brought 30 new lives into the world, and it was about nine months after Hurricane Ian.
“Traditionally, the summer here is our busiest time period, but you know people were cooped up a little bit after the hurricane, so you never know,” said Dr. Loraine Endres, the OB medical director for Lee Health.
People can’t help but make the connection. There have been baby booms after other natural disasters around the country or even the holidays. Locally, the record-breaking day seems to be part of a bigger trend of more babies being born in Lee County, no matter what mother nature is up to.
“Each year seems to get busier and busier,” Dr. Endres said.
Health Park houses Lee Health’s primary obstetric unit, and realistically, they could break the new record again any day now.
“It’s a fun time to be a labor nurse. It’s also a very busy time,” said Tony Raldiris, a staff nurse on labor and delivery.
Nationally there have been reports of a recent decline in the birth rate, but locally it seems to be a different story.
“I mean, it’s hard to say if women in our area are having as many babies, but it’s more the influx of families to our area that our local birth rate is just dramatically increasing,” Dr. Endres said.
She points to the growing number of younger people calling Southwest Florida home. Many have moved here since the pandemic, when a lot of jobs went remote. Others may simply be enticed by the beautiful beaches and sunshine. This means a place with a reputation for retirement is also now home to lots of new life.
“Some of the statistics show that recently women of child-bearing age, the percentage in our area, just for the first time ever, is greater than older women,” said Dr. Endres.
Last year at Health Park alone, 6,235 babies were born, and they’re on track to beat that this year.
“We’ve had a 19% increase in babies, year over year, from July of 2022 to July of 2023, said Denise Waszkowski, a Certified Nurse Midwife at Lee Health.
Cape Coral Hospital is also delivering babies in Lee County.
“So we’re certainly trying to hire nurses, even more midwives and physicians. We’re trying to increase staff just to accommodate that,” Dr. Endres said.
Even when the days get crazy, staff in the labor and delivery unit lean on each other and love being part of so many birthdays.
“It’s been hard work, but definitely rewarding and bittersweet when we see them go,” said Lee Health RN Taylor Maniscalco.
As the community grows, Lee Health is working to build a new hospital along Challenger Blvd between Colonial Blvd. and Winkler Avenue. The Lee County School District also has a 10-year plan to build 16 new schools.