Birth center awaits finish
The move to Beeghly Medical Park is part of a $90 million improvement plan for Forum Health.
& lt;a href=mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org & gt;By CYNTHIA VINARSKY & lt;/a & gt;
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mothers-to-be will be rushing to Beeghly Medical Park for new baby deliveries instead of Northside Medical Center under a Forum Health plan to relocate the Youngstown hospital's obstetrics department and baby nursery to Boardman.
N. Kristopher Hoce, Forum president and chief executive, said construction is well under way on the new building on Market Street, which will house the obstetric department and neonatal baby nursery.
The relocation is part of Forum's five-year master facility plan. Jeff Rexroad, project executive for the plan, said the move to Boardman will likely take 16 to 20 months.
"The whole idea is to make this a more homelike, less threatening setting for the whole family -- the mothers, the fathers and the siblings," he said. "We're doing some interesting things to make this a state-of-the-art obstetrics center."
But top-notch medical care will still get top priority, Hoce said, and officials will insist on having the appropriate neonatology coverage for premature and at-risk infants.
"We want to make sure the new center will have the same capabilities we have at Northside now, and we won't make the move unless we can," he said.
The Beeghly obstetrics center is part of a systemwide improvement plan that will cost Forum more than $90 million.
Rexroad estimated that the obstetrics department and nursery will cost between $6 million and $8 million -- a new wing Forum will erect at Northside to house its pediatrics department and a heart hospital will consume a larger share of the project budget.
Forum issued $60 million in bonds last summer to raise money for the capital improvements. The health system will pay for part out of its operating income, Hoce said, and officials also plan a fund-raising campaign seeking philanthropic assistance.
Chris McCarty, a spokesman for Humility of Mary Health Partners, which owns St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown, said it's hard to gauge the effect Forum's move will have on HM's obstetrics department.
"We will continue to serve the needs of the community as we always have, and we have a wonderful staff and facility at St. E's, which will continue to bring people our way," he said.
HM, which is Forum's chief health-care competitor, is also investing millions of dollars to provide new facilities and services in the suburbs, McCarty said, along with continued improvements at St. E's, which he called the company's "flagship."
"As a patient, you should always go where you think you're going to get the best care. If you're in the main hospital and something should happen, that's always a consideration."
Planners are working with the leaders of Forum's obstetrics and pediatrics staff on the design of the new Boardman center, which will occupy part of the first floor and all of the second and third floors of the three-story building. Rexroad said they're also interviewing designers who specialize in modern obstetrics facilities.
About half of the first floor of the new structure, 12,000 square feet, will house an orthopedic surgery center Forum is planning in collaboration with a group of local orthopedic physicians. Rexroad said that center will likely be opening sometime this summer.
About 11,000 square feet of space on the ground floor will provide support services for the new OB center, including a pharmacy, a registration area and a cafe for visiting family members.
The second and third floors of the building will house the obstetrics department and nursery. He said planners haven't decided yet whether to have a single large nursery for all infants or to have two nurseries, one specializing in care for premature and at-risk babies.
Reasons for change
Hoce said Forum considered two factors in its decision to move: The changing demographics of the region, and the company's need to be competitive.
Planners looking for ways to meet the changing needs of the community observed that the population, especially people of child-bearing age, is growing in southern Mahoning County near Beeghly Medical Park and declining on the North Side around Northside Medical Center.
A decade ago, the population center around Northside was considerably larger, he said, and now the two areas are close to being equal. Projections indicate that the population within a 5-mile radius of Beeghly will be much larger in another 10 years.
"The distribution totally flips," he said, describing the demographic projections. "Where the population is, that's where the availability of services needs to be."
He said the majority of obstetricians on staff at Forum have located their offices in the southern portion of Mahoning County because of the population swing in that direction.
Secondly, Hoce noted that consumers usually have a choice when they're deciding on a childbirth location, and Forum must be competitive.
"Of course, an environment that provides appropriate medical safety for the child and the mother is No. 1," he said, "but from there they look at convenience and access and facilities and amenities. Those things become very important factors in the decision-making process, so we're working with our medical staff to be sure we design something that makes sense from all those perspectives."
Once the move is complete, Hoce said, an expectant mother in labor arriving at Northside would be taken to the emergency department, stabilized, then transported to Beeghly.
"It's the same thing we do now when a woman in labor is brought to Beeghly's urgent care, only reversed. In that case, now, she would be stabilized and then transported to Northside."
Dr. Nicholas M. Garritano, whose obstetrics practice is on Starr Centre Drive in Canfield, said Forum's move to Boardman would be "fantastic" for his practice, as long as the Beeghly Center has all the same capabilities and pediatric support as Northside.
Dr. Garritano said he likes the idea of a new facility, and the Boardman location would be more convenient for him and his patients, most of whom live in the Poland-Boardman-Austintown-Canfield area.
"I'm quite pleased," he said.
JoAnne Muransky, practice manager for physicians associated with Progressive Women's Care, also praised the move.
"We are thrilled to death," she said. "It will be very efficient for doctors and patients. There is no easy access from Boardman to Northside Hospital."
Progressive Women's Care has offices at Beeghly Medical Park, at Northside Medical Center, and in Austintown and Campbell.
XCONTRIBUTOR: William K. Alcorn, Vindicator staff writer
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