Women and Infants and Brown University break ground on new delivery unit
Project expands patient rooms to better accommodate families
An architectural rendering of the exterior of the future Brown University Labor and Delivery Center at Women and Infants Hospital. (Image courtesy of Care New England Health Systems.)
PROVIDENCE — The delivery unit at Women and Infants Hospital opened in 1986. That’s something Sharon Conard-Wells would know, she told the 100 or so people gathered at the hospital Wednesday afternoon.
She gave birth to her youngest daughter there that first year, even if the experience is a little hazy.
“I was stressed and in too much pain to notice my delivery room,” Conard-Wells said Wednesday at a groundbreaking ceremony for the hospital’s new labor and delivery unit.
“But these rooms do not fit the needs of today. That’s why we are doing this.”
Conard-Wells is a member of the steering committee of the Campaign to Deliver Our Future — a philanthropic initiative raising $40 million to replace the delivery unit with a new facility that will nearly double the size of patient rooms in a partnership with Brown University.
Among the dignitaries gathered to break ground on the Brown University Labor and Delivery Center were: Gov. Dan McKee, Providence Mayor Brett Smiley, Brown University President Christina Paxson, President and CEO of Care New England Health Systems — the owner of Women and Infants Hospital — Michael Wagner, and Women and Infants President and Chief Operating Officer Shannon Sullivan.
“We are creating a foundation for the next generation,” Sullivan said. “The greatest measure of a generation is what they do for those coming up.”
Announced in October, the new delivery center will be built by Dimeo Construction Company and include nursing stations, break rooms, and administrative offices. Construction is expected to finish by December 2024
The centerpiece of the estimated $40 million project will be 20 labor and delivery rooms, each 400 square feet in size. Plans call for eliminating the one alternative birthing room. The center’s 19 patient rooms now are only 220 square feet.
Rooms will still be a mixture of private and semi-private accommodations, though each patient will have a private bathroom.
Officials who spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony said the room size increase was a major motivator behind the unit’s inception. While existing rooms were built with only medical personnel, the birthing mother, child, and birth partner in mind, future rooms look to accommodate extended families and birth doulas — professionals focused on informational, emotional, and physical support to birthing mothers throughout pregnancy and post-partum stages particularly popular among communities of color.
The initial steps occurred after a $5 million donation by Brown University to the Campaign to Deliver Our Future heralded in October.
“The success of Women and Infants is critical to Rhode Islanders,” Paxson said at the ceremony. “Great clinical care is really linked to great resources.”
Paxson said students from Brown’s Warren Alpert School of Medicine do their residencies, learn, and conduct research at the hospital.
“What we’re doing matters for retaining the very best OB/GYN clinicians and residents in the state,” she said.
Approximately 8,700 births occur annually at Women and Infants, about 80% of all births in Rhode Island. Among them was Mabel McKee, Gov. Dan McKee’s granddaughter, born about 12 weeks ago.
“For me to be here, seeing a key investment to deliver 21st century care to Rhode Islanders is special,” McKee said.
Also on hand was Providence Mayor Brett Smiley, who focused on the economic development opportunities and the facility’s impact on the capital’s future.
“The next generation of Providence high school graduates will work here,” he said. “The next generation of employees [at Women and Infants] will live here.”
Judith Remondi, chair of the steering committee of the Campaign to Deliver Our Future, said the campaign is still $18 million short of its $40 million goal.
“This project is about more than just a new building,” said Remondi, who is also a board member of Women and Infants Hospital and Care New England Health Systems. “It’s about excellence in women’s health, equity and access, and providing a labor and delivery environment that leads to the best outcomes for both mother and baby.”
Women and Infants Hospital currently employs about 3,000 people and is the ninth-largest stand alone obstetrical hospital in the U.S.
Women and Infants is a special place for many RI families, including mine – it’s where my granddaughter, Mabel James McKee, was born just a few months ago.
— Governor Dan McKee (@GovDanMcKee) May 10, 2023
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