NORTHAMPTON — After a months-long project-planning review process, officials at Cooley Dickinson Hospital received approval from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to begin renovation of the hospital’s Childbirth Center.
The construction, which begins Tuesday, March 17, will take place in seven phases over approximately 70 weeks; the Childbirth Center will remain open during the project.
Once completed, the Childbirth Center will offer expanded services in its newborn nursery and more home-like surroundings for patients and families. Other improvements, such as the addition of a dedicated tub room for laboring and more comfortable beds for partners, will be completed earlier in the process so more patients can experience the benefits of the renovation project.
“For many months, staff at the Mass Department of Public Health have been involved in reviewing all aspects of our construction plans to meet their stringent safety requirements,” said Vice President of Operations Anthony Scibelli. “The DPH will continue to be involved as each phase of construction is completed and a new one begins.”
Scibelli says the renovation of the Childbirth Center includes refurbishing all patient-care areas and most support areas to make the space more comfortable for patients and families, as well as creating a warmer, more home-like environment. In addition, the newborn nursery will be upgraded to a Level 1B nursery to provide special newborns with extra care and attention before they are discharged from the hospital. Once renovations are complete, Cooley Dickinson will be the only Level 1B nursery in Western Mass.
“Now that the DPH has given us the green light, we are poised to make our vision for the Childbirth Center a reality,” Chief Development Officer Diane Dukette said. “We are grateful to those who have given. We hope to inspire others to support this center, which is so critically important to our community.”
Dukette noted that community members have already donated $1.7 million to underwrite the cost of the Childbirth Center renovation project, which has been named “Breathing New Life.”
Because the Childbirth Center will remain open during the project, staff will work to minimize noise and distractions as much as possible. Working with the construction company, staff will take the necessary steps to mitigate noise within the site. For example, renovations will be phased so the rooms that are under construction will be worked on as far away from patient care as possible. Noise-cancellation machines will be installed to help with noise reduction, and best-practice construction techniques are planned to ensure dust and debris are well-contained.
“As compared to home or commercial construction sites, hospital construction sites use specially designed construction barriers,” Scibelli said. “These are hard, airtight, temporary walls with a double set of temporary doors that workers pass through on their way in and out of the area that is under construction.”
The architect and construction firm have experience in healthcare, both at Cooley Dickinson Hospital and in the field of healthcare construction in general.
The Childbirth Center was last renovated in 1998. Nearly 600 babies are born in the center each year.