The Albany Herald
Jennifer Maddox Parks
ALBANY, Ga. —Aside from the fact that the intention for Phoebe North is to turn it into a womens’ and childrens’ center, there is only one other thing that is for certain.
The transition process will be an extensive one.
While meetings have been ongoing with stakeholders to get input for how the building’s layout should look, site visits have been made to various facilities with a similar focus.
“We are seeing some of the planning (these centers are doing) and what goes into it,” said Tracy Morgan, vice president of women’s and children’s services at Phoebe. “It has been helpful to us.”
The site visits, as well as attendance at various seminars, has allowed officials the opportunity to network in that field to get a better feel for how their plans were implemented and what methods have worked, officials say.
“We identify folks who have designed something (of a similar nature) recently that was found to be good for morale and satisfaction, and see if we can incorporate it for Albany,” said Phoebe Putney Health System CEO Joel Wernick. “We have the benefit of our our own staff who can make it uniquely Phoebe.”
Meanwhile, discussions are ongoing as to what subspecialties will move to Phoebe North and where they will need to go, and what will stay at its sister hospital two miles away — as such decisions will impact long-term planning for the services that will remain, or may possibly come into, the main campus.
“We are getting into the nuts and bolts,” Morgan said. “We have an idea of everything that needs to go in there (at Phoebe North). Now we are looking at adjacencies, or the components and departments that need to be close to each other.
“As we go on through the year, we want to get feedback.”
The feedback officials have been getting thus far has primarily been from experts in the women’s and pediatrics fields. Soon, the focus will be on what the community thinks it needs.
“We want to establish an advisory council of community members to figure out what they need and what they want,” Morgan said. “(We want to make the) special touches that (will) make it a uniquely Southwest Georgia campus.”
Morgan noted that education and outreach is a concept which will be encouraged at the campus, and there will be a push for a family-oriented atmosphere — including private breastfeeding and gathering areas as well as a resource area for both patient family members and medical staff.
The plans may even include an outdoor patio on the third floor, as well as scenic elements and historic landmarks brought into the educational components for Phoebe North’s younger patients.
“We are looking ahead, but it is definitely a process,” Morgan said.
The anticipated timeline in place calls for the design phase to begin sometime this year. In two years time, there should be a firm idea for the layout of the hospital, with the renovations complete about a year after that, Morgan said.
“After the design phase, we will look at the square footage to be dedicated to each area,” she said. “We will retrofit with the current walls, and bring interior decorators in.
“We will look at how to have the women’s environment different from the children’s environment so both (populations) are happy and comfortable.”
One of the gems of the center, officials have indicated, will likely be an expanded neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) that will be intended to provide a level of care that smaller hospitals in the surrounding area cannot.
“We are increasing the number of beds and antepartum space,” Morgan said. “We have an (antepartum) area now, but it is small.
“We will (also) increase our pediatric presence and level of care.”
For the NICU space, there are still discussions taking place regarding the possibility of putting up partitions in-between the beds to allow for a more “room” concept.
“I think people will feel comfortable with it,” Morgan said. “It (the hospital) should be the shining star that the community is happy is here.”
While it is still too early to get exact figures, the current estimates are that the transition of Phoebe North into a women’s and children’s center would increase the NICU bed capacity by at least 20 percent from the setup now at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.
“(Currently), we perpetually stay at the license bed capacity, and we are constantly on overflow (with other centers) on divert,” Wernick said. “The NICU design will be bigger, and provide a different care environment approach and larger personalized space.
“There is something on every other side of the NICU walls (at the main campus), so we can’t expand there.”
The total cost of making all these changes, while also still undetermined, is anticipated to exceed $25 million, Wernick said.
View full story at The Albany Herald website.