St. E's Boardman to Open Maternity Unit April 7
BOARDMAN, Ohio – At first, Genie Aubel wasn’t sold on the window boxes.
Pitched to Aubel by interior designer Rebecca Tennant, the window boxes, which encase articles of children’s clothes and maternity wear, will be among the aesthetic elements that greet expectant mothers and their loved ones in the new maternity services unit at St. Elizabeth Boardman Health Center.
Maternity services and the neonatal intensive care unit operated by Akron Children’s Hospital will move from their present location at St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown to the Boardman campus April 7, on the third floor of the second tower being built there. An open house set for April 7 marks “a major milestone” in construction of the new tower, said Aubel, president of St. Elizabeth Boardman Health Center.
The $100 million tower project represents nearly half of the more than $203 million Humility of Mary Health Partners announced in 2012 it would spend on construction and equipment upgrades at the hospitals it operates in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
“This has been a huge and very exciting project for us,” Aubel remarked. “We actually began opening some of the phases last year, as early as last March.” The campus is now adding four additional operating rooms and will add an additional medical-surgery floor expected to open in January 2015. This year a long-term acute-care will open in conjunction with another community partner, she said. The project has used “virtually 100% local labor” and about 30% has been spent with diversity suppliers, “which we’re very pleased with,” she said.
The new maternity unit at St. Elizabeth Boardman will have 33 postpartum rooms, Aubel said. “They’re all private rooms. They’re new, beautiful, state of the art,” she remarked. The unit also will feature 14 labor and delivery rooms and three operating rooms.
In addition, the new tower will have a designated drop-off area for maternity. “There’s a door to the south end of our new tower with a camera on there and a push-button that can be seen by the staff in here,” Aubel said. “They come right in here and up to the maternity floor so no more having to traverse through the entire hospital to get to labor and delivery.”
The unit will also feature a more welcoming environment than the stark, sterile whites that are often a fixture of hospitals. Tennant, who is affiliated with The Workshop Arch + Design LLC, Youngstown, also worked with HMHP on the campus’ initial tower. “By design we have made this not an institutional-looking environment,” Aubel said.
“We’re looking for creating more of a wellness facility versus the sterile type of facility. Especially with the maternity unit I wanted to create more of a spa-like feeling,” Tennant said. “This is when the woman really needs to be pampered and treated very special. … This is a very happy time for everyone.”
“She did a lot of research,” Aubel said. Blues and greens that are prominent in the unit “calm people,” she noted.
Artwork for the unit, however, presented a challenge. “It’s difficult when you’re doing artwork for a maternity unit because it’s not always sometimes a happy situation,” as when an expectant mother experiences a miscarriage, Tennant said. “Also, we have a very diverse culture in our area so we don’t really put up pictures of babies.”
Inspired by something she saw at the University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, where an artist had created and framed women’s dresses and other clothing made from paper, she also thought about mothers who have a favorite outfit work by their child that they “can’t part with,” so they shadow box it and put it in the child’s room.
“It was a lot of fun to research the clothes,” she said
Aubel wasn’t a fan early on. An early concept Tennant had found on line that she sent featured an old, yellowed christening gown, which to Aubel suggested death. “I called her and said, ‘Becky, I’m just not feeling this one,’” she recalled. Eventually, Aubel relented. “She’s phenomenal so I really trust her.”
Tenant ended up mixing maternity wear with the children’s outfits. One of the shadow-boxed items is an old christening gown with a note stating it had been work by three different children. “We really like it now,” Aubel said.
Beginning at 7 a.m. April 7, expectant mothers are asked to no longer go to the Belmont Avenue campus and instead go to St. Elizabeth Boardman to deliver. Mothers who have already delivered at the main campus for the most part will remain and be cared for there.
“Now the NICU, which is run by Akron Children’s Hospital, has a much longer length of stay than our patients do, and they do have a transportation plan to bring patients down to their new and beautiful rooms on this campus.”
Dr. Elena Rossi, neonatologist and associate chairman of pediatrics at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley, praised the new space as bright and spacious. “There’s so much room for each family and baby. It’s a calming environment,” she remarked. In addition, she noted medical literature has shown that treatment and care in a single-room patient environment decreases the risk of infection, which is especially important for low-birth-weight infants because their immune systems haven’t developed.
“It’s also been shown that a single-patient room improves the parent interaction with their infants, their bonding, and it allows them to participate more each and every day in the care of their baby.”
Last year some 1,800 babies were born at the downtown campus, and Aubel expects even higher numbers at the Boardman campus. Because of the location, she anticipates more deliveries from mothers residing in Columbiana County. “We have added quite a bit of staff for the volume we anticipate having here at the new unit,” she said.
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