High-ticket items still needed to equip hospital Women’s Center

The Central California Alliance for Health board of directors voted against expanding into San Benito to offer managed care for Medi-Cal patients due to a conflict between Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital and the San Benito Health Foundation.

With the construction of the Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital Women’s Center set to be completed in late December, efforts are still under way to equip the three-story building with all the items needed for safe deliveries as well as diagnostic needs for women in the community.

“It will accommodate more women,” said Leah Dowty, the director of the Hazel Hawkins Hopsitals Foundation. “We only have two labor rooms.”

The first floor of the Women’s Center will be designated for labor and delivery, with 13 suite-like rooms that will house families through the process. The rooms will include a couch for visitors and a hospital bed for the mothers-to-be. And all the medical equipment will be tucked away in cabinets. Women will be able to deliver their babies and recover in the same room, without having to share a recovery room with another patient as happens now when the department is busy.

“The patients have to share a room and share a bathroom,” said Frankie Gallagher, the public relations director for the hospital. “Then dad can’t stay the night. We will be able to accommodate visitors better.”

She said the new center will allow the local hospital to provide some of the same amenities that are offered at regional hospitals outside San Benito County.

“We will be able to attract more people to the area,” she said. “We want to make it a really nice environment so they will stay here locally.”

The Hazel Hawkins Hospitals Foundation launched a capital campaign last fall to raise money to furnish and equip the Women’s Center. They started with an original goal of raising $300,000. So far they have raised $450,000, but they will continue efforts through the end of this year.

Peggy Pierce, campaign chair and past president of the foundation’s board, said the labor and delivery area had not been updated since she had her son, who is now 35.

Pierce said pregnant women these days “want the whole family there. It is truly a family affair.”

She also stressed that the Women’s Center will provide diagnostic services on the second floor, such as mammograms or bone density tests so local residents don’t have to travel out of the county. The first floor will be for labor and delivery, the second floor for diagnostics and the third floor for expansion as the population grows, Gallagher said.

Some of the items that are still needed for the Women’s Center include fetal heart monitors at a cost of $250,000; an infant security system for $86,000; as well as medication carts, tables, stands, IV poles and more.

The $15 million construction project is funded by Measure L, a property bond approved by voters in 2005. The bond raised $31.5 million, with some of the money used to expand the emergency room. Dowty said she believed the bond money covers the walls of the building and everything attached to them, but “free-standing” items have to come out of a different hospital fund. Dowty said whatever they raise at the Foundation will be a savings to the hospital.

With the dinner dance fundraiser set for Nov. 9 and a plaque fundraiser winding down, the board members have high hopes that they can reach $500,000 for the Women’s Center. Tickets for the dinner dance go on sale Oct. 1.

“If we get there, that will be $1 million for the Women’s Center and the ER,” Dowty said.

The donations have come in by the thousands or by smaller denominations such as $250 to have a plaque with ones name on it in the lobby area. Plaques will be available for donations of $250 or more that are received by Oct. 1.

Dowty said the foundation board members will meet after the dinner dance to decide what items they want to fund for the Women’s Center and how they want to establish the McCullough Resource Center.

At the end of last week, Project Manager Liam McCool’s weekly email update indicated construction was nearly 85 percent complete, with plumping and electrical wiring going in on the first floor.

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