A woman who just had a baby doesn’t have to wear drab hospital gowns and stay in boring rooms with plain white walls.
At least that’s the idea at the WakeMed North Family Health & Women’s Hospital, which opens Monday in North Raleigh.
Women who give birth at the new facility can lounge in plush robes and get a massage or manicure. They can take part in a photo session with their baby before they go home.
“It’s a huge part of someone’s life,” said Seth Brody, executive medical director of the women’s hospital. “You want it to be safe, but it’s nice to be able to do that in a warm, inviting environment.”
The $67 million hospital has 61 beds, including six in a neonatal intensive care unit.
Each patient room has its own bathroom, with stylish barn doors. The rooms have two televisions – one for mom and one for guests.
The dining center functions like room service. Patients can choose what they want to eat, and when they want to eat it.
The food is transported to rooms through separate hallways and elevators to keep patients away from the behind-the-scenes work.
“Since day one, we’ve really made this effort more hospitality than hospital,” said Sheri De Shazo, vice president and administrator at WakeMed North.
WakeMed delivers about 7,500 babies a year at its hospitals in Raleigh and Cary. The state expects that number to continue to increase, said Tom Cavender, WakeMed’s vice president of facilities and construction.
WakeMed officials realized in 2009 the hospital wasn’t prepared to keep up with the growing number of babies born in Wake County, Cavender said.
So they began the process of building a women’s hospital in North Raleigh, where demographics suggested more children would be born, De Shazo said.
The WakeMed North healthplex was built in 2000 to feature medical offices with limited services. In 2005, WakeMed added an emergency room.
The state approved the women’s hospital in 2009 for 61 beds. WakeMed already has approval for a 14-bed expansion in the future.
The WakeMed Women’s Hospital hired hospitalists, on-call doctors who will be involved with patients throughout their pregnancy and delivery.
If needed, a hospitalist can step in as a patient’s regular doctor to deliver a baby.
The hospitalist format is a relatively new labor-and-delivery model in Raleigh, but it’s been in practice in other health care systems for many years, Brody said.
De Shazo said WakeMed had to rethink its approach to the birthing experience. A hospital’s job now goes beyond just making sure mom and baby are healthy.
WakeMed is also making changes at its birthing facilities on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh and in Cary, with the focus on creating a comforting environment.
WakeMed spent $10 million to renovate its labor department at the main Raleigh campus to make it look like the Women’s Hospital in North Raleigh, but it does not yet offer the full range of amenities.
“It is absolutely a shift in not just the quality and safety, but the experience is also important,” De Shazo said. “We built what we think will be an exceptional experience.”