WHS gives birth to first phase of obstetrics makeover

Rick Shrum
Observer Reporter

Washington Health System has a shiny new space to take good care of your baby.

WHS has completed Phase I of its CARE Center at Washington Hospital, the postpartum and recovery area. The first patients were moved into the unit Tuesday afternoon, following construction that began last fall on what is officially known as CARE Center for Family Birth and Women’s Health.

Work on the second phase, for labor and delivery, will commence Sept. 16, said Stephanie Wagoner, marketing and community relations manager. That part of the project, she added, will be on the same floor and is expected to take only a few months.

In total, this is a $7 million, 22,000-square-foot endeavor that has been boosted by about $5 million in donations.

Washington Hospital, the city-based flagship for the health system, provides obstetrics services to patients throughout the tri-state – partly out of necessity. There are no facilities in Greene County that offer them, forcing residents to travel to Washington, Morgantown, Pittsburgh or elsewhere. And Uniontown Hospital shut down its obstetrics unit June 30.

The recently refurbished section at WHS Washington is decidedly different, with one similarity: geography. “It’s the same footprint as the old space, but a new layout,” Wagoner said.

It is a locked area with 13 rooms in the postpartum/recovery area, down from 17. But the room spaces are more spacious, the atmosphere brighter thanks to enhanced lighting and a relaxing color scheme, complemented by walls adorned with artwork.

These rooms, of course, are for obstetrics patients, but not restricted to them. They also may be used by patients having gynecological surgeries.

“We wanted to have more room for family members to visit mom and the baby,” Wagoner said. “Some donors have said they look like hotel rooms.”

Minutes later, she showed off a family nook for eating and other activities, and where one can have some privacy.

The waiting area has been centralized and is situated next to a family lounge featuring a virtual fish tank that – among the fish and their surroundings – is a smorgasbord of colors. It is virtually guaranteed to appeal to kids. Two nursing stations likewise have been centralized, to enhance work flow for the nine nurses who ply their trade there.

Many of these changes were implemented in response to public input. For nearly a year and a half, professionals in the health system sought the advice of community members and/or parents of babies born at Washington Hospital or elsewhere. They also spoke with physicians and other staff, all with the intent of maximizing comfort, efficiency and safety.

Leslie Gostic, nurse manager of the CARE Center, certainly endorses the process behind the transformation.

“We decided that if we were going to make this investment in our hospital and our community, we wanted to get it right,” she said in a news release. “Who better to listen to than patients, our community members and staff?”

Phase II will include rooms for labor and delivery, a physicians on-call area and a C-section room.

Washington Hospital has seven obstetricians on staff, including a new physician, Alana Butcher.

Brook Ward is not a new kid on the block – in this instance, Wilson Avenue. He has been with the health system for nine years, but is only two months into serving as president and chief executive officer. Ward succeeded Gary Weinstein, who retired from those positions effective June 30.

He is pleased and duly impressed with what has transpired, and what is expected to transpire, in the OB unit.

“As other hospitals close their obstetrics department, we are so proud to continue to offer this service to our community,” Ward said in a prepared statement. “This will also ensure that women and families in Washington, Greene and surrounding counties will be able to receive care close to home.

“The new CARE Center for Family Birth and Women’s Health will allow our patients to have an aesthetically pleasing environment that matches the level of quality care we have always provided at WHS.”