WATERTOWN — Dr. Jonathan R. Oliva began his celebratory remarks about Samaritan Medical Center’s new Center for Women and Children Tuesday by emphasizing how it improved its previous shortfalls.

Dozens of donors, former employees, local dignitaries and other supporters who attended the ribbon cutting and open house for the center listened to Dr. Oliva, chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology, described the hospital’s lack of space for its maternity care services when he when he joined the hospital in 2012. The neonatal intensive care unit and nursery were combined, and both were joined with the labor and delivery unit and postpartum unit in a small hallway, he said. The maternity and pediatrics departments had also been located on separate floors.

“It was not uncommon for us back in 2012 time frame to have no more rooms and to be doing deliveries in the triage or in the hallway,” he said, “but we have since grown, as is evidence by this building behind me. And also since I arrived, what was evident to me from the very start was an unwavering commitment and priority to providing high quality patient care and a high level of care to the patients that enter our doors.”


Guests sit under a pavilion during the opening ceremony for Samaritan Medical Center’s new Center for Women and Children on Tuesday in Watertown. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

Years of construction, including building a 10,000 square-foot addition, have allowed the hospital to connect the NICU, labor and delivery, pediatrics and postpartum units, the latter of which is still under construction, on one floor, and support them all with more rooms, larger rooms and state-of-the art equipment.

Hospital CEO Thomas H. Carman said he expects construction for the overall project, including the postpartum unit, to wrap up in 2022.

Dr. Oliva praised the hospital’s administration, members and benefactors for recognizing the need for the center, fueled by the increased volume and complexity of cases over the years. The hospital delivers between 1,700 to 2,000 infants each year. Dr. Oliva also said he appreciated the eight state-of-the-art labor delivery rooms, two operating rooms and 21 private postpartum rooms, most of which are still under construction.

By offering larger rooms, interconnectivity between the units and more advanced equipment, Mr. Oliva said the new center should enhance patient comfort, staff workflow and emergency response time.

“When I think of this building, it’s obviously very beautiful inside and up-to-date, but just as a house does not make a home, this building would not be standing if not for the people who work within those walls,” he said. “The care, the compassion, the knowledge level, the skill level is finally matched by this facility.”

After the ceremonial purple ribbon under the towering entryway, adorned with bold blue letters spelling “Center for Women and Children,” was cut, attendees entered the hospital and either climbed the stairs or rode the elevator to the third floor to witness some of the improvements first hand.

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Guests enter the new Center for Women and Children at Samaritan Medical Center during the center’s grand opening on Tuesday on Washington Street. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

They gazed into some completed patient rooms glowing with natural light from large windows with wide bathrooms for easy wheelchair access, built-in cubbies and more space for guests, as well as the new nursery and other rooms connected by a wide hallway and entry area outlined with green walls. Barricades blocked off the rest of the postpartum unit still under construction, which includes a connection to the other units, but visitors received a glimpse of the enhancements to the completed and active units through displays. The pictures included a new cesarean section suite, waiting area in pediatrics and patient rooms across the units.

“I’m just overwhelmed with the turnout we had today. I continue to be grateful for the support from this community,” Mr. Carman said.

Jillian Marra, a nurse practitioner who has worked at the hospital for seven years, said in addition to the layout, she like having a room on the floor where staff can have meals, allowing them to respond to emergencies faster, and the privacy offered by new postpartum rooms, which only allow one patient per room.

“When I started here, there used to be curtains separating (patients),” she said.

The new pediatrics unit was completed in May, but will not operate “as a true Pediatrics wing until 2022,” hospital spokeswoman Leslie DiStefano wrote in an email, adding that the hospital is using it for mother-baby rooms during the construction. The labor and delivery area was finished almost two years ago and the 10-bed NICU was completed about four years ago.

The Center for Women and Children is part of the hospital’s multi-year expansion and capital campaign, “The Healing Power of Progress.” The campaign has garnered more than $6.1 million, surpassing its $6 million goal, to help finance the center, the Walker Center for Cancer Care, which opened to patients last fall, and an endowment fund.


Guests walk through the halls of the new Center for Women and Children at Samaritan Medical Center during the center’s grand opening on Tuesday in Watertown. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

The hospital’s largescale expansion and modernization effort kicked off in 2006 when the hospital completed its facility master plan, and has resulted in the organization adding a new parking garage and patient pavilion, renovating existing buildings and erecting a connector between the hospital and nursing home. Phase IV of the hospital’s plan includes the Center for Women and Children, as well as enhancements to the Inpatient Mental Health Unit and other improvements that cost a combined $43 million. Visitors on Tuesday also witnessed the hospital’s progress on mental health unit improvements on the second-floor.

“The project will be fully completed by 2022 as it is a phased approach,” Ms. DiStefano wrote. “The Center for Women and Children is the most completed project at this point.”

Samaritan’s multi-year expansion and modernization effort

Phase I, opened in 2009: Parking garage

Phase II, opened in 2010: New Patient pavilion

Phase III, completed in 2013: Medical center renovations and connector to Samaritan Keep Home

Phase IV, expected completion in 2022: Expansion and renovations to labor and delivery, acute rehabilitation unit, radiology and support services such as shipping and receiving, loading dock and purchasing

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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