UAB’s new Women & Infants Center promises to bring together under one roof the services and facilities that women in all stages of life have come to expect from the hospital whose women and infant care has consistently been ranked among the best in the country by U.S. News and World Report. “The foundation of the high-quality care we offer isn’t the facility but the people,” says Dr. William Andrews, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the UAB Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “However, the buildings we occupied previously were quite spread out, and some were built 80 or 90 years ago. Now we’ll be able to provide multi-disciplinary team care more efficiently and more comfortably.”
The new ten-story building, located adjacent to the under construction Children’s Hospital expansion, will offer services to women of all ages, from gynecology care to high-risk obstetric care to neonatology services and what will be the largest private-room Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (RNICU) and Continuing Care Nursery (CCN) in the country. The Center will also be one of the only hospitals in the state to have neonatal and maternal-fetal doctors on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
A brief tour of the new Center begins at the covered vestibule and valet parking that greet patients as they drive up to the center. Patients enter the two-story atrium lobby, artfully designed with ceramic tile floors, natural wood details, and colorful mosaic accents, that looks out over the green expanse of the Jim Limbaugh Family Park of Hope in honor of Phyllis Limbaugh. Trained guest services representatives are on hand to greet patients and direct them to the appropriate area. If necessity dictates, there is also an emergency delivery and newborn care room on the lobby level, for babies who simply can’t wait any longer to make their grand debut.
The second floor houses the Continuing Care Nursery, for babies who require an extended hospital stay. In keeping with the center’s emphasis on keeping families together as much as possible, the CCN offers private rooms with family sleeping space, bathrooms with showers, refrigerators, and TVs, as well as family lounges and a children’s playroom for visiting siblings. A family hospitality center houses three family overnight rooms, showers, a laundry, and a snack kitchen
The third floor is where the action happens—labor and delivery. Again, the focus is on keeping families together in a homelike and comforting atmosphere (Roberta Shapiro, interim service line director for women and infants services, says the rooms are so comfortable, it’s more like laboring in a swank hotel than in a hospital). The labor, delivery, and recovery (LDR) rooms are equipped with pull-out beds for dad or other family members, flat-screen TVs, DVD players and private bathrooms with showers. The rooms are also equipped with cutting edge medical technology, which has been tucked away in bureaus and cabinets, so it can be easily accessed but doesn’t diminish the atmosphere. The floor also offers ample space, staff, and equipment to care for healthy newborns in post-anesthesia recovery rooms, so that babies born by C-section can stay with their mother in the post-surgery recovery period. The 46 private rooms of the RNICU have been specially designed for the care of multiple births. RNICU rooms also feature sleep accommodations for parents. (See sidebar for more on UAB Women and Infants Center’s RNICU facilities.)
UAB has long been touted for its high-risk pregnancy care, and the new Women & Infants Center will streamline its world-class services. Should a woman experience complications requiring more intensive ante- or post-partum care, the sixth floor offers private, family-oriented patient rooms as well as procedure and holding nurseries (for when a new mom needs a nap or just a little break) with space for more than 40 new borns, an infant resuscitation area, and a lactation center.
Gynecology and gyn-oncology services, many of which are available nowhere else in the state, are
located on the seventh floor. UAB was one of the first institutions to be named a Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in ovarian cancer by the National Institutes of Health and today continues to spearhead innovative new therapies. Seventh floor features include private gynecology and gyn-oncology inpatient rooms, including special lead-lined, bariatric and isolation rooms; a family lounge and playroom; consultation and quiet family spaces; and a kitchen for patient meals.
Another element that will make the new Center unique is its proximity to the new Children’s Hospital patient-care facility, scheduled to open in 2012. “Before, if a baby needed very specialized surgical neonatal care, they might have to be transported to Children’s Hospital’s intensive care nursery in an ambulance, while the mother was still up the street at UAB,” says Dr. Andrews. “Eventually, our Center will be connected on three floors to the new Children’s Hospital building, so from the perspective of the patient and family, it will be like being in the same building.”
While the country struggles through the current economic recession, the opening of the UAB Women & Infants Center is a hopeful comment on the future of Birmingham and the state. “Economic conditions changed [over the course of the Center’s creation], but we weren’t going to stop moving forward,” says Dr. Mike Waldrem, M.D., CEO of UAB Hospital. “It’s too important to have the right clinical environment to support the entire state. Ultimately it was a care decision, not an economic decision.”