Cooley Dickinson Childbirth Center cleared for $4M renovation

  • Cooley Dickinson Hospital is shown March 2. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/8/2020 11:40:58 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Cooley Dickinson Hospital will begin significant renovations to its Childbirth Center later this month after receiving approval from state health officials Thursday to go ahead with construction.

The state Department of Public Health gave the green light to the $4 million project, which will include an upgrade of the hospital’s nursery, revamping of patient care and support areas, and various cosmetic changes. Renovations, which will begin on March 17, are expected to unfold in seven phases over 70 weeks, though Julia Sorensen, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said the project will likely take two years to fully complete. The center will remain open during the renovations.

Dr. Ed Patton, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Cooley Dickinson Medical Group Women’s Health, said he remembers walking into a newly renovated Childbirth Center in 1998 and being amazed by the new space. But he said both medicine and the way the hospital delivers care since then has changed — necessitating a newly renovated space to stay on top of such advancements.

“We really want to make sure the patients are having the best experience possible,” Patton said. “This is a momentous occasion in many of these people’s lives.”

Most notable of the changes being made to the hospital’s Childbirth Center, which delivers nearly 600 babies a year, is an upgrade of the nursery from a level IA to a level IB. Nurseries in hospitals are assigned ratings by DPH that determine the level of care that can be provided, according to Diane Dukette, chief development officer at the hospital.

Cooley Dickinson’s current nursery is for healthy infants, she said. As of right now, it can provide newborns additional oxygen and other services for a specific amount of time. Babies who need more care are usually sent to a hospital with a higher nursery level, such as Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, which has a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, according to its website.

Dukette said Cooley Dickinson already has staff trained to work in a level IB nursery, but the renovations will provide the necessary space and technology required by DPH for an upgrade. With a new level IB nursery, staff will not only provide additional care to some babies without having to transfer, but they will also be able to treat mothers who are struggling with substance abuse and their newborns, Dukette said.

“We have all of the clinical expertise in place, we just don’t have the space,” she said.

In addition to the nursery upgrades, Patton said, the Childbirth Center will also get new patient and partner beds, an additional laboring tub, upgrades to labor and delivery rooms, renovations to postpartum rooms, a new visitor restroom and HVAC improvements. There will also be a new charting workroom for doctors and staff to aid in interdisciplinary communications, he said.

All of these upgrades aim to create a “warm, welcoming environment” for patients and families, Patton said.

The renovation project is being split into seven phases to minimize disruption during construction, as the center will not close. Workers will shut down a limited number of rooms in each phase and then move on to new rooms, Sorensen said. Rooms that are under construction will be worked on as far away from patients as possible.

The hospital reviewed the typical number of births over time and planned construction around that, she said. There are multi-purpose rooms that can be used if necessary, Patton said.

“We’ve structured it so there’s minimal impact to anyone in the Childbirth Center,” Sorensen said.

Construction comes with a lot of state safety regulations. Noise cancellation machines and specifically designed construction barriers will mitigate noise and contain dust and debris, according to a statement released by the hospital.

According to Dukette, the new project would not have been possible without donations from the community. People have already donated $1.7 million to underwrite the cost of the Childbirth Center’s renovations, the statement said.

One of those people who donated is Genevieve Brough, owner of Finck & Perras Insurance Agency Inc. in Easthampton. She said she was born at Cooley Dickinson.

“It was such a perfect opportunity to make an impact at the hospital because that’s where life begins,” she said.

Brough said she sees her donation as an investment into having a good hospital close by. She commended “nurses that are so unbelievably caring and doctors that are so unbelievably wonderful.”

“The hospital is such an impactful member of the community,” Brough said. “It’s a big employer, but also very involved with everything that goes on in the area.”

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.


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