Health Care

April 19, 2013

Via Christi moving childbirth services from west-side facility to East Harry location

Brahms’ “Lullaby” is going to be playing over the intercom more at Via Christi Hospital on East Harry.

Brahms’ “Lullaby” is going to be playing over the intercom more at Via Christi Hospital on East Harry.

Over the next few months, Via Christi plans to phase out births at its west-side hospital on St. Teresa and move the deliveries to the hospital’s NewLife Center on East Harry.

“We want to be better stewards of resources,” said Claudio Ferraro, senior administrator for Via Christi Hospital on East Harry. “We thought this is a good time to combine volumes to allow for good quality and also provide the right level of services in the community.”

When the hospital on St. Teresa opened in 2010, Via Christi decided to offer delivery services there in anticipation of a growing population in west Wichita.

But the demand for services didn’t meet expectations. The hospital has been delivering an average of one baby a day. Hospital officials said about 10 percent of expectant families living west of I-135 are choosing to give birth at St. Teresa; the hospital accounts for 3.5 percent of all births in Wichita – and it just isn’t practical to continue services at those levels.

The Via Christi Hospital on East Harry currently delivers about 2,500 babies a year. Wesley Medical Center delivers more than 6,000 babies a year.

Via Christi plans to phase out deliveries on the west side over the next 60 days.

“Despite our best efforts to attract the appropriate physicians and accommodate the patients, we still find that physicians drive a lot of health care decisions, and the physicians throughout the community are continually drawn to East Harry because of the volume,” said Kevin Strecker, senior administrator for Via Christi Hospital on St. Teresa.

Ferraro said the proximity of the East Harry location to physicians’ homes and offices is also a factor.

As part of the move, Via Christi is planning a $2.5 million renovation to the NewLife Center on the fourth floor of the hospital on East Harry.

The hospital was last remodeled in 2001, when Via Christi consolidated childbirth operations at that location. The remodeling required a temporary move of those services to the hospital on St. Francis.

The renovations are in the design phase now, and hospital officials hope to start work in the next few months.

The job has not been put out to bid yet.

Remodeling will be done two rooms at a time to minimize patient disruption, said Melissa Evraets, assistant chief nursing officer.

“While it will be a little bit of hustle and bustle, the plan will be to do it in increments,” she said. “The folks in our facilities department are masterful at making as little disruption as possible.”

Via Christi does not plan to add rooms but to create a more hotel-like atmosphere with new decor and amenities.

“We can accommodate the increase in volume with the existing infrastructure,” Ferraro said.

The East Harry location has 30 postpartum rooms, 15 labor and delivery rooms, three surgical rooms and a 30-bed neonatal intensive care unit.

The remodeling also will include the triage unit and a lactation clinic, Evraets said.

“It works very well for processes and puts the resources right here in the same unit,” she said.

Staff members will be involved in the design phase, and hospital administrators say they hope for more family spaces.

“We find that the healing process is better if there is family participation, so anything we can do to create family space, sleeper sofas and ample space for patient family visitors to participate in the recovery process usually results in better experiences,” Strecker said.

Should demand for delivery services grow on the west side in coming years, Via Christi would consider adding them back, Strecker said.

Plans for what will be housed in the unit at the hospital on St. Teresa have not been determined.

Although deliveries will be consolidated, the hospital on St. Teresa will continue to offer pre- and postnatal care and gynecological services to patients.

Via Christi officials said about 23 full-time employees at the St. Teresa location will be affected; arrangements are being made to have them staff other locations within the Via Christi system, officials said, but not necessarily in labor and delivery.

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