It took about an hour Tuesday to mark the completion of the St. Francis Women’s Hospital and the dedication of The Butler Pavilion. Then, following a quick ribbon cutting before a few hundred residents, it was all over but the crying.
That will come Nov. 1 when the new baby delivery wing of the Women’s Hospital opens for business, with St. Francis expecting it to deliver between 1,500 and 2,000 infants in the first year of service.
Save for a couple of “drive by” deliveries each year — with the laborious process taking place in the hospital’s emergency department — this is the first time since 1981 that St. Francis has had such a special delivery unit.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work,” said St. Francis Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Granger of the desire to fulfill the promise of top-notch service to go along with the $110 million expansion — the hospital’s largest ever.
“The community and the board have provided the resources,” he said. “The leadership has been put in place. The doctors are here. The nurses are here. Now we’ve got to deliver. And we’ve got to work hard and do the right stuff and take care of people the way they expect it, and do it everyday, all the time.”
Of course, sometimes it’s best to take a peek at the past to see how far you’ve come. That was what brought Frances Mines of Stone Mountain, Ga., to the event. She was the very first baby delivered at the nun-operated hospital shortly after its opening in 1950.
The nuns, apparently wanting to celebrate the moment, encouraged Mines’ mother, Mrs. Cephas V. Thomason, to alter the newborn’s name.
“My mother had named me Barbara Theresa Thomason, and before she left the hospital the nuns asked that she name me after the hospital. So she changed it to Frances Theresa Thomason,” said Mines, a bouquet of flowers in her arms. “I think it was a good choice.”
Also on hand was Mary Steele, the director of the St. Francis baby delivery department when it closed 32 years ago. In a wheelchair Tuesday, she said simply that the Women’s Hospital was “just beautiful.”
Her son, Richard Steele, a pharmacist at St. Francis, said his mother had strong feelings about the department’s closure so many years ago. She eventually retired from the hospital in 1999 after nearly four decades of service.
“She told Sister Patricia, who was the head of the hospital at the time, that it was going to be a mistake. So that came to pass,” he said. “I know she’s really happy that babies are going to born here again. It will be a new generation.”
Tuesday’s milestone event — which followed the Heart Hospital’s debut in May — was filled with several well-wishers offering their thoughts on the historic occasion.
Steve Butler, a member of the St. Francis Hospital Board of Trustees, noted the leap in medical treatment that the expansion is bringing, calling it “world class in every respect. People can get the very best health care here that they can get anywhere.”
A larger-than-life-sized statue of Butler’s father, the late Dr. Clarence Butler, stands in front of the Butler Pavilion’s entrance. The renowned internal medicine and cardiology physician was there at the hospital’s genesis and helped lead its growth through the years.
Sue Marie Turner, a longtime supporter of the hospital along with her husband, Bill Turner, was lauded by her daughter, Sallie Martin, but in a humorous tone because of her mother’s reluctance to be in the spotlight. The Women’s Hospital is named in her honor.
“My mother said the facilities are so wonderful and state of the art, it makes her want to have another baby,” joked Martin, one of six children of the couple.
Dr. Chuck Scarborough, a surgeon with the Elena Diaz-Verson Amos Center for Breast Health, said the hospital with its once-humble beginnings is now “state of the art in my view and second to none.”
Dr. Sylvester McRae, who has delivered more than 7,000 babies in the Columbus area and now is best known for robotic surgery involving female ailments, applauded St. Francis for expanding on site and not relocating to another area of the city.
“They’re promoting diversity,” he said. “They’re not trying to move away from the population. They’re saying we’re going to stay right here and build something that will take care of everybody. And that’s critical.”
Tuesday’s community gathering in front of the new medical towers also featured an appearance by members of the Hardaway High School Band, lunch from Country’s Barbecue, and tours of the sleek new facilities inside.
That’s where registered nurse Ashley Ingram was meeting and greeting curious visitors in the baby delivery ward. It has five labor and delivery beds and 10 mother-baby suites.
“When we see what our volume is, we’ll be able to expand that even further, as soon as the state tells us we can,” said Ingram, who expects the new hospital wing to be popular despite the competition about three miles away at Midtown Medical Center (formerly The Medical Center).
“We expect to be very busy,” she said. “We’re going to start out a little bit slow, but I think it’s going to overwhelmingly be more than half of the community volume within the first year.”
Midtown Medical Center and Doctors Hospital (now called Doctors Specialty Hospital and no longer bringing infants into the world) handled about 4,300 births combined in the last fiscal year.
The St. Francis Hospital expansion over the last two years includes a four-story, 189,000-square-foot clinical services building, a five-story, 168,000-square-foot medical office building and an emergency department that is now three times bigger than the previous one.
There’s also an expanded surgical suite, adding one operating room, a cardiovascular intensive care unit and a medical intensive care unit. A new conference center, which includes a 324-seat auditorium, is also new to the campus.
The Elena Diaz-Verson Amos Center for Breast Health, St. Francis OB/GYN Associates and St. Francis OB/GYN Physician Partners all have relocated their offices to the expanded campus at the corner of Manchester Expressway and Woodruff Road.
St. Francis Hospital employs nearly 2,000 full- and part-time.
Here are the features of the new St. Francis Women's Hospital
LABOR AND DELIVERY AREA
Two dedicated operating suites in the labor and delivery unit
Neonatal nurse practitioner coverage for newborns
Around-the-clock pediatrician on staff
Ventilators, oxygen monitors, labs and X-ray equipment for newborns
Full service newborn screenings
Nesting rooms for mom and dad when the baby has to stay in the hospital
Partnership with Sunday’s Day Spa, providing bedside services including massages, manicures and pedicures
Butler Boutique, a gift shop with items for new mothers and babies and the latest post-partum accessories, including breast pumps
CENTER FOR BREAST HEALTH
Digital screening and diagnostic mammography
Diagnostic breast ultrasound
Minimally invasive breast biopsy (ultrasound, stereotactic and MRI)
Dedicated breast MRI
Breast-specific gamma imaging
ABUS Automated Breast
Breast health navigator
DXA scan — osteoporosis screening
Genetic testing and counseling
* Source: St. Francis Hospital