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ChristianaCare opens doors of $260M women’s and children’s health center

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ChristianaCare one of the only hospitals in the United States to provide “couplet care” in the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU), keeping the mother and baby together even if they both require medical care. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRISTIANACARE

NEWARK — ChristianaCare opened the doors of its 400,000-square-foot women’s and children’s health center at the end of April, ending years of construction at its campus.

ChristianaCare’s $260 million Center for Women’s and Children’s Health was built with family comfort and convenience at its heart. The eight-story facility features a private neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) with private rooms, expanded labor suites and postpartum rooms and more.

“This is really about the larger commitment we have to families. It’s more than just a building, it’s where we can transform health for mothers and children,” ChristianaCare Chief Operating Officer Sharon Kurfuerst told the Delaware Business Times.

ChristianaCare is Delaware’s largest hospital system and delivers roughly 6,000 babies per year.

The new facility’s hallmark is the NICU with sound-absorbing floors, climate-controlled nursery alcoves. Notably, it is also one of the few in the country to feature couplet care — where mother and child are treated by the same medical staff.

Wayne Smith, the president and CEO of the Delaware Healthcare Association, said that the couplet care is a unique aspect of ChristianaCare’s service for families.

“That initial bonding period between mother and child is critical for the child’s development, and having the same team focusing on the family as one is a great strategy in terms of treatment,” he said.

The Center for Women’s & Children’s Health, with eight stories and 400,000 square feet, is designed to support and enhance the most up-to-date, evidence-based models of care, with improved integration of services and the space to offer innovative patient-centered care for mothers, babies and families. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRISTIANACARE

Bigger labor rooms — about 50% larger than before — and postpartum rooms also bring more for patient experience, he added.

“I remember when my daughter was born 25 years ago, and I had to sleep in a Barcalounger. This will be a welcome change,” he said with a laugh. “It’s excellent to see the emphasis put back on family togetherness.”

The new center with 204 licensed beds adjoins the current two-story Women’s and Children building on the health system campus. Designed by architectural firm HKS and built by Skanska Inc., work started in 2015 and finished right on time despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Families also had some say in the facility’s design and layout, and ChristianaCare officials wanted to create a more peaceful atmosphere. Delaware’s coastal views are depicted on the center’s walls, and there’s interactive displays for children.

A healing garden with outdoor seating and landscaping is on the second floor, with space for strollers and families to walk.

Other features include a multi-level Ronald McDonald Room to support families with infants who are in intensive care, open spaces for health education and programs, and expanded OB/GYN emergency services area.

ChristianaCare President and CEO Janice E. Nevin touted the new center as the hospital system’s latest renewal to serving its community with “excellence and love.”

“With expert care in an environment that is at once innovative and tranquil, we are transforming care for women and families. This facility represents a new standard of care for our community,” Nevin said in a prepared statement.

During a time when Delaware’s unemployment claims topped 100,000 since the pandemic started, Smith said it was unlikely that patients would see higher bills at the new facility.

“In terms of regional competition, hospital systems have alternative options to keep costs from going up,” he said. “Insurance providers can take them out of the network, and that would be killer for costs. But on the same coin, hospitals need to keep that patient flow and prices competitive in the long run.”

Looking to the future, ChristianaCare will continue to renovate its older facility as staff shifts to the new Women’s and Children’s Health Center. In time that could bring more private rooms and some need for additional staff, Kurfuerst said.

“We will be very close to becoming an all-private room on the Newark campus,” she said.

By Katie Tabeling

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