- Associated Press
Saturday, February 15, 2020

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) - Spacious rooms, abundant natural light and lots of color. That’s what most impressed some of the pregnant women who toured the new Women’s & Children’s Center at Moses Cone Hospital on Feb. 12.

“It’s a big change,” said 27-year-old Telysha Florence, taking in the differences between rooms in the new facility and those at Women’s Hospital. Florence, whose due date is March 29, said she’s most excited by the size of the rooms.

“It’s much bigger and much more accommodating for the family to be together,” the Greensboro resident said. “And it’s much brighter.”

Florence was among seven pregnant women who participated in Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new center, which is connected to the south side of Moses Cone Hospital.

Hundreds of Cone Health employees, donors, volunteers, politicians and others gathered for the ceremony.

“Our goal was not to build a hospital, but to design the ideal place for one of life’s ultimate experiences,” said Terry Akin, Cone Health’s chief executive.

Several outpatient clinics at Women’s Hospital will remain until a new location is found for them, according to Doug Allred, a Cone Health spokesman.

Five years in the making, the $100 million Women’s & Children’s Center officially opens to patients on Feb. 23, when the health care system will transfer expectant mothers from Women’s Hospital to the new center.

Its neonatal intensive care unit has 45 private rooms, instead of pods where newborns are clustered together. This allows families privacy and the ability to stay the night with their child.

The center’s 248-square-foot “mother-baby rooms” actually are slightly smaller than those at Women’s Hospital, which were built as semi-private rooms. However, because the new rooms have higher ceilings, more usable space and more light and color, they look much larger, Allred said.

Women who previously gave birth at Women’s Hospital - and their husbands - had a hand in designing the new center.

Lori and Hezekiah Poag of McLeansville spent 100 days in the neonatal intensive care unit at Women’s Hospital after the birth of their boy in 2015.

“We really got to know the facility, from everything down to the fragrance of the hand sanitizer to the colors on the walls,” Lori Poag said. “It was our home for months.”

After touring the new center, Lori Poag said her husband “was really impressed with the pull-out beds” for family members, noting that he tried one out and found it comfortable. “Before (at Women’s Hospital), he was sleeping in the chair.”

Expectant mother Laquenta McGhee-Rawls said she was glad that the staff at Women’s Hospital would be moving to the new facility.

“The staff are very friendly and nice,” said McGhee-Rawls, who’s expecting to give birth to her third girl on April 15. “I love the colors, just everything - the whole atmosphere.”

She’s planning a water birth, which can help manage pain during the birthing process.

The Women’s & Children’s Center is only the second hospital in the state that allows water-immersion births, said Amy Skrinjar, the nursing director of labor and delivery who was helping lead tours of the facility.

There are mobile tubs that can be moved into one of the 18 labor and delivery rooms, where there is access to water and drains to accommodate the tubs.

“It is becoming very popular in our country for women who want to deliver in the water,” Skrinjar said. “Women for years would go and stand in a hot shower when they were in labor because warm water is comforting and soothing. It’s a more natural delivery.”

Examination lights in the labor and delivery rooms are hidden behind panels featuring flowers or other decorative imagery, and the lights can be dropped from the ceiling when needed.

The facility has its own entrance on Northwood Street, a connected parking deck and free, 24-hour valet service.

Amy Mong of Greensboro, who spent two months in the neonatal intensive care unit with the birth of her child in 2014, said Cone Health did a good job of listening to the community.

“I love that they have the big, open space for the family-support center,” Mong said. “There was a lot of conversation around … a community space, where the moms could come and talk to one another and connect with one another.”

That connection is important, said Melissa Brooks of Oak Ridge, who had twins at Women’s Hospital in 2013, “because you’re surrounded by people who get it.”

The center also has an outdoor patio, which can accommodate hospital beds, for family visitation.

Patient rooms have pass-through cabinets for meals and supplies, meaning fewer interruptions to pick up trays and used linens.

The center also is one of the first facilities in the state to offer what it calls “couplet care.” If a mother has a C-section and the baby needs intensive care, the two can remain together with one hospital team.

“It makes me want to have another kid,” Lori Poag said, prompting a somewhat shocked look from her husband and laughter from the other women in her group.

“We’ll see,” Hezekiah Poag said. “We’ll see.”

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