Back in 2014, you could have counted me among the skeptics.
Both of my children were born in Cone Health’s Women’s Hospital off Green Valley Road in Greensboro. My wife, who is a family physician who delivered babies early in her career, used to work there.
It was one of the only free-standing hospitals of its type in the country dedicated solely to the health of women and babies. It was a neat place, a special community.
I’m sure many of the parents of the nearly 150,000 babies (that’s a population larger than High Point’s) born there over the last 30 years felt the same way.
So when Cone Health announced a little more than five years ago it was going to move operations out of The Women’s Hospital and move them into a brand new, $100-million, six-floor, 195,000 square foot behemoth connected to its flagship Moses Cone Hospital off Elm Street, I shook my head.
Why move out of a place unlike any other in North Carolina? Why leave a building linked to so many life-changing moments? Wasn’t this a source of pride for Cone Health?
I’m sure Anne Macner and Karin Henderson asked some of those questions. Anne’s Cone Health’s vice-president of reinventing care. Karin’s the executive director of strategic development. They’ve been with this project from the beginning and have been the keys to its execution.
But Anne and Karin also knew something I didn’t realize. The Women’s Hospital had outlived its capabilities. And renovating it to accommodate 21st Century needs wasn’t possible.
So the decision was made to build the new Women’s and Children’s Center and attach it to Moses Cone Hospital so the two could share resources, but with a certain emphasis.
“It was really important for us as we looked at moving to assure the community that what we were going to do was include all of the great things that already happen in The Women’s Hospital,” Anne told me during a recent your of the new building. “And that it would be even better.”
“Better” in the form of 45 private newborn intensive care rooms for babies and their families.
“Better” in the form of “couplet rooms” in which there are two bed spaces: one for an intensive care baby and one for his or her mom who may have just had a c-section and needs hospital care.
“Better” in the form of labor and delivery rooms along with mother-baby rooms (where moms and babies stay together after birth) that are large, have bright colors, and lots of natural light. They also have refrigerators and fold-out sofa beds (in addition to the traditional reclining chairs) for “significant others.”
And those are just a few of the new features.
But perhaps what really makes this new building unique is the fact it’s the result of a collaboration that included more than 1,000 people. They included patients, patient families, doctors, nurses and other hospital staff members. Each had a say in the building’s design.
Based on an idea Karin got during a trip to Seattle, Cone Health even set up a cardboard “mockup” of one of the new building’s floors in an old abandoned Food Lion store off Battleground Avenue.”
“They (the Cone Health family) moved doorways. They moved walls. They moved rooms around,” Karin said. “And it was a whole lot faster and, quite honestly, more inexpensive if you can actually make changes in cardboard.”
In other words, Cone Health didn’t have to pay a hospital design firm thousands of dollars to come up with this place. It was truly an “in house” job!
As for the The Women’s Hospital, it’s future is still “to-be-determined.” Cone Health will keep some services there at least for another year while it builds a new Center for Women’s Health -- which is still in the planning stages.
The ribbon cutting ceremony for the new place has already happened. You could say its first “official” day of business will be Sunday, Feb. 23, when all the moms and babies at The Women’s Hospital are moved to the new place.
Karin and Anne say the they expect that process will only take a few hours.
Yes, the old building will still hold a special place in my heart. But I’m sure the new Women’s and Children’s Center will generate its own special memories for generations to come.
So much for my old skepticism.
For more information on Cone Health’s Women’s and Children’s Center, click here.