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Wesley Medical Center renovations put moms in charge

Wesley Medical Center interim CEO Bill Voloch shows off a computer in a newly remodeled women’s birthing room. The technology serves as a Web browser, game station and movie player to which patients will have easy access because it swings over their beds. Wesley recently completed a $36 million renovation of its women’s care units.
Wesley Medical Center interim CEO Bill Voloch shows off a computer in a newly remodeled women’s birthing room. The technology serves as a Web browser, game station and movie player to which patients will have easy access because it swings over their beds. Wesley recently completed a $36 million renovation of its women’s care units. The Wichita Eagle

Wesley Medical Center has completed a $36 million renovation of its women’s unit.

During the 18-month project, workers remodeled 65 rooms on the third, fourth and fifth floors of the center at Central and Hillside. The space was last remodeled in 1978.

“It was a complete gut and start over,” said Bill Voloch, interim chief executive officer of Wesley Medical Center. “Nothing remained from the old era.”

Voloch said the point of the renovation was to create a better environment for new mothers and their babies.

“It was old, dingy, poor lighting, exposed brick,” Voloch said. “It’s now a much healthier environment to be in afterward.”

More than 6,000 babies are born each year at Wesley.

Half the cost of the renovation went to mechanical renovations, such as heating and cooling systems, Voloch said.

“Prior to this, believe it or not, we didn’t even have control over the thermostat in every room,” Voloch said. Now, women can have a little more control over the temperature in their rooms.

Technology also was part the renovations. For example, each room now has a touch-screen computer attached to a crane-like swiveling arm. The screens can can be used to video chat with family and friends, display ultrasounds, and keep patients informed about treatment.

“If your grandma is in South Dakota, you can Skype from here while you are holding your baby,” Voloch said.

The renovations also allow for mothers and babies to be kept in the same room, said Cathi Blise, interim chief nursing officer at Wesley Medical Center. She said research shows that skin contact and breastfeeding are important for newborns’ bonding and growth.

The updates to spaces in the facility also are meant to accommodate more people in the birthing room.

“As long as it’s not unruly, we allow members of the family to be in there,” said Blise.

However, if family members or others don’t want to be in the room, they can go to the new waiting room or “fan cave.” The fan cave on each floor sports the colors for a different Kansas college team – as well as a TV and about six seats. Wichita State University, Kansas State University and the University of Kansas are represented.

In the end, the renovations work to comfort and empower the mothers, Blise said.

“I think now, the mom is in the driver’s seat, where years ago it was the medical practitioners that were dictating the way you had to have your baby,” Blise said.

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