The University donated $5 million to Care New England to support the building of a new labor and delivery center at Women and Infants Hospital, according to an Oct. 20 press release from the hospital. The new center, which is expected to begin construction in January 2023, will be named the Brown University Labor and Delivery Center.
“Our goal is to help Care New England create a world-class labor and delivery center that will serve generations of families to come, provide improved resources for clinicians … and strengthen Rhode Island’s ability to attract top medical talent to the state,” University Spokesperson Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald.
The University’s gift will contribute to Care New England’s ongoing fundraising campaign, which aims to enhance its quality of service, facilities and educational initiatives, said Shannon Sullivan MA’21, president and chief operating officer of Women and Infants Hospital, in an interview with The Herald.
“This labor would not be able to be paid for with operational funds,” she added. The Women and Infants Hospital posted a nearly $11 million operating loss for fiscal year 2020, according to a July 2021 Boston Globe article.
The hospital’s current labor and delivery center has not had any capital improvements since it was built in 1986, according to Sullivan. “We are providing Ivy-League, world-class clinical care … in a very outdated facility with very small rooms,” she said.
The new labor and delivery center will be built off of the hospital’s main building, adding 20 rooms to the hospital which will include private baths and externally-facing windows, Sullivan said. Most of the construction will not touch the main building and will not disrupt clinical care, she added.
At 400 square feet in size, the rooms will also mark “an increase from the current 220-square-foot rooms at Women and Infants,” according to the press release. Sullivan said this will help the hospital to focus on patient-centered care and allow patients to bring in more family members, midwives and doulas into the delivery room, which the current rooms cannot accommodate.
“Four out of five babies born in Rhode Island are delivered at Women and Infants Hospital,” Clark wrote. “For families across the state, … this space will provide an even more welcomed and comforting experience, high-quality obstetrics for all patients … and the ability to better accommodate the full range of child delivery experiences desired by patients.”
“We’re working very diligently on our disparities in health equity and care,” Sullivan said. The new center will allow the hospital to focus on more low-intervention care by working with more midwives and doulas. This will lower rates of cesarean delivery and lead to “better birth outcomes,” according to the press release.
The hospital is also working to promote health equity by dedicating an estimated $5 million from its total fundraising campaign toward its research and education initiatives. This will include bolstering the Constance A. Howes Women’s Health Innovation Research Fund, which focuses directly on the health of women and their families, Sullivan said.
The new center will also include increased spaces for academic teams, which will allow for improved clinical team communication and an enhanced ability for the hospital “to recruit and retain top clinical and research talent,” according to the press release.
The hospital’s current set-up, which does not include any academic team spaces, is “terrible” for collaboration, Sullivan said. The new center will include a variety of rooms where attending physicians can teach medical students and residents directly in the spaces where care is happening.
Better academic spaces will directly benefit the large numbers of residents and medical students from the Warren Alpert Medical School at Women and Infants Hospital, Sullivan said.
The University’s gift “will further build on a (long-standing) partnership” between the medical school’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the hospital, Clark wrote. Many of the physicians at Women and Infants also have University faculty appointments, he added, and the hospital is home to the medical school’s residency program in obstetrics and gynecology.
“This new facility brings the potential to benefit all of those clinicians and trainees both from the standpoint of the care available to patients and the research they conduct.”
Sullivan said the hospital also hopes to expand its collaborations with other nursing and pharmacy schools and open up new opportunities for “interdisciplinary coordination and academic teaching.”
Women and Infants “is one of the only freestanding women’s health hospitals in the country,” Sullivan said. “Having state-of-the-art facilities to be able to care for women in this current political state is really important. … Rhode Island is incredibly lucky to have a hospital like this.”
Alex Nadirashvili is the managing editor of multimedia and social media for The Brown Daily Herald's 133rd Editorial Board. As a former University News editor, he covered faculty, higher education and student life, though his proudest legacy is The Brown Daily Herald TikTok account.