Cone Health’s Women’s Hospital was the first hospital in North Carolina devoted to the special needs of women and babies — and that earned it a special place in the city’s medical community.
So when Cone Health said Monday that it plans to close Women’s Hospital and replace it with a new Women’s and Children’s Services building next to Moses Cone Hospital, officials made a point of saying how it would preserve that special character as it improves care for women and children.
The 50,000-square-foot building is part of a $100 million plan that also includes construction of a new Behavioral Health Hospital and improvements to operating rooms at Wesley Long Hospital.
The Women’s and Children’s Services building is set to open in early 2019 and the Behavioral Health Hospital later that same year.
“ Women’s Hospital is a very special place, and women and families in this community are very attached to this,” said Terry Akin, Cone Health’s president and chief operating officer. “Our objective is to make everything that makes Women’s Hospital special and unique and take it over to Moses Cone
Hospital and enhance it.”
Practical needs are driving the change.
The 40-year-old Women’s Hospital building would be difficult to upgrade.
It’s also three miles from Moses Cone.
Care can be confusing and delayed when patients at Women’s Hospital must be transferred to Moses Cone for MRIs or be admitted to the trauma center with pregnancy issues.
“If mom gets sick, we have to transfer her to Moses Cone for special services, and that separates mom and baby,” said Kelly Leggett, medical director of faculty practice at Women’s Hospital .
In the new building, a mother with a baby admitted to intensive care will be able to come back and stay with the baby in a larger room for “couplet care,” as Leggett calls it.
Children’s care also will be added, uniting specialties that had been separated between the two hospitals.
The intensive care unit for children will be combined, Akin said, as another way of keeping women close to their babies and children for continuous care.
According to one medical expert, it’s important that Cone Health is making a strong effort to preserve a culture of care for women.
The new building, which will have separate entrances and parking, will allow for a greater sense of security for women who may not feel comfortable with care that doesn’t differentiate between the sexes.
A woman’s “problems are very intimate, and by having a separate entrance … it is so much more reassuring,” said Vicki Lucas, a women’s health management consultant based in Maryland.
It’s also crucial, Lucas added, that a women’s hospital preserve the culture of the staff as well. Many see obstetric careers as a calling.
Akin agreed. “People who work in these facilities are passionate about their careers – everything we do as a health system starts with our people. We want to attract and retain and hold onto people for a long time.”
Leggett said the new hospital unit will preserve those committed professionals, but they will have backup from nearby specialists in cardiology and other areas as needed.
“The building of Women’s Hospital is not what makes it unique,” she said. “It’s the spirit inside, and I think we can transport that easily.”
Contact Richard M. Barron at (336) 313-1311, and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.
• Begin planning a new Behavioral Health Hospital to open in 2019.
• Move Behavioral Health Services for those not requiring a hospital stay from Behavioral Health Hospital by early 2016.
• Redesign Behavioral Health services to emphasize early support, early intervention and early treatment to avoid inpatient admissions.
• Expand operating rooms at Wesley Long Hospital.
MOSES CONE HOSPITAL
• Opened in 1953 with 231 employees and 53 of its 310 beds in service.
• Opened North Carolina’s first intensive care unit in 1962.
• Cone Health Heart and Vascular Center moved into 60,000-square-foot “hospital within a hospital” in 2006.
• 96 private rooms on six stories.
• Latest addition opened in 2013.
• Expanded emergency department, 16 operating rooms, and heart and vascular surgery with minimally invasivetechniques.
WOMEN’S AND CHILDREN’S SERVICES
• A new 50,000-square-foot building on the Cone Health campus is set to open in 2019.
• Pediatric care will join women’s and infant care in the same building with larger rooms for families, separate entrances and parking.