Trends in Health Care

The art of the move

The art of the move

Careful planning leads Woman's Hospital into new complex.

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If you're under 45 and from Baton Rouge, there's a really good chance you were born at Woman's Hospital. Nearly 300,000 babies came into the world at the pink-tinted landmark at Airline Highway and Goodwood Boulevard.

That's an awful lot of history, and hospital officials over the years did what they could to stay current, making upgrades whenever and wherever possible. But several years ago, it became clear that the facility, more than 40 years old, was on the road to obsolescence.

“Every inch of that campus was renovated and redesigned a number of times,” Woman's CEO Teri Fontenot explains. “We could have done some more over there, but it would not have corrected the deficiencies that we had.”

In September of 2005, the Woman's Hospital board decided it was just about time to move. Getting from that point to Aug. 5, 2012, when the new Woman's near Airline and Pecue Lane officially opened its doors, was a painstaking and, at times, nearly all-consuming process. But the end result of all that work is a bigger and hopefully better hospital that officials say is more than ready for the next level of modern health care, not to mention the next generation of Baton Rouge babies.

Watch and learn

“The level of detail, and the things you have to think about,” Fontenot said, “and the coordination and the teamwork that is required to do something like this—there's not a word to describe it.”

When Fontenot and several of her colleagues gather for a roundtable discussion at the new Woman's, the big move is less than a week away. The comparisons to an impending birth were obvious and inevitable, and the hospital's marketing department hasn't shied away from making the link.

“We're pushing,” Fontenot said, quoting one slogan.

Jamie Haeuser, Woman's senior vice president of operations, says stakeholders were engaged through a process called Future Search. More than 70 people, including doctors, nurses, other employees, patients and families, and community leaders, spent two and a half days at Baton Rouge Community College in 2006 coming up with guiding principles for the new hospital. It was decided that the space needed to be flexible, with room to expand services.

Woman's sent teams to new women's and children's hospitals around the country. Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island helped inspire the design of the new intensive care unit, where each infant and family have a separate room instead of the “ward” setting found at the old Woman's. The privacy should help reduce infections while improving family bonding and, hopefully, breast-feeding rates.

There were also visits to watch other hospitals move, including Our Lady of Lourdes in Lafayette last year. Lourdes officials also met with Woman's to give advice and share resources, including education materials given to Lourdes employees. Woman's planned two command centers for their move day, one at each hospital, based on the Lourdes model.

Tom McLaughlin of NBBJ, which was brought in as a consultant on the move, says the process cost more than $3 million. A big part of that budget is employee training.

“The worst thing in the world is for a hospital to open up and their people not know how to use the equipment,” he says. “They need to know where things are and be oriented to the space.” Though the new hospital is 25% larger than the old one, officials expect the more efficient layout will save time, but that result only occurs when people know where they're going.


Use of local contractors as possible

Approximate construction jobs

June 2008
Began site work

December 2008
Began steel work

August 5, 2012

Joan Ellis, the hospital's director of education, says one of the biggest challenges was scheduling training around shifts; remember, they still had a hospital to run. Every nurse received a minimum of 16 hours of training, and critical care providers received 24 hours. During the last week before the move, surgeons were beginning to train on the hospital's two new da Vinci Surgical System robots, which Woman's officials say, with a laugh, might have blown the circuits at the old place.

And of course, Woman's received visits from all manner of bureaucrats, safety inspectors and other interested parties, from the state Department of Health and Hospitals to the nonprofit National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which helped assess security.

“The fire marshal lived here [at the new hospital] for a while,” Haeuser says.

On Aug. 5, patients were given a boarding pass and a GPS tracker and verified at least six times between leaving the old place and settling into the new place. More than 2,000 Woman's and Acadian Ambulance employees participated. Acadian provided 20 vehicles, and the Ochsner Medical Center Pediatric Transport unit. Two separate transport teams were used: one for mothers and healthy infants, and one for intensive care infants.

Hospital staff had performed simulations to get ready, and on the big day, the move went, by all accounts, about as smoothly as could be expected. The next morning, Woman's held a ribbon tying ceremony with local dignitaries, instead of a ribbon cutting ceremony, “to symbolize its strengthening ties to the community.”

Facing the future

A $24 million a year mortgage, along with cuts to Medicaid, the federal/state program that pays for health care for the poor, primarily women and children, put extra revenue pressure on the new hospital. But they're not adding beds.

They are, however, expanding access to services that Woman's offered in the past but didn't heavily promote. For example, an orthopedic surgeon that's been on staff for over a year now has more space to see patients. Gastroenterology, particularly colonoscopy, and bariatric surgery likely will receive greater focus. Two general surgeons will be housed at the new campus.

Officials also expect the more efficient layout and improved technology to lead to savings on operating costs. The key, Fontenot says, isn't necessarily doing more; it's providing a high value, effective service at the lowest cost possible.

Leaving a place with so much history is bittersweet. But Fontenot compares the move to the LSU baseball team's last game at the old Alex Box Stadium, when Skip Bertman led a closing ceremony and pretended to seal the old stadium's magic in a time capsule to bring to the new. She says they're bringing their culture with them.

“I'm not tied to the bricks and mortar,” Fontenot says. “The things that we're leaving behind are the things that will be better.”


• Five-story hospital building (approximately 497,000 square feet)
• Two medical office buildings (approximately 248,000 square feet in total); includes space for ambulatory surgery center and cancer treatment center
• Two-story support services building (approximately 69,000 square feet)
• Two-story central energy plant building (approximately 25,000 square feet)
• Approximately 216 acres

• All patient rooms are nearly 400 square feet, most with views of nature.
• Convenient parking for hospital patients and visitors.
• All NICU patients have private rooms.
• Campus includes 1.25 mile walking trail around a lake.
• Generous distribution of family resource and waiting spaces.
• Improved cafeteria facilities, including covered outdoor dining alongside a beautiful waterfront plaza.
• Expanded conference room and meeting facilities.


• Adult beds: 168
• Bassinets: 146 newborn beds, 72 NICU beds
• Operating rooms: 13
• Inpatient room size: 390 square feet
• Antepartum patient center: 800 square feet with kitchenette, washer, dryer, and education area for women on bed rest
• Infusion center: Seven semiprivate stations with individual televisions for women undergoing chemotherapy or infusions
• Imaging services
• Seven diagnostic and screening digital mammography units
• Six ultrasound machines
• Three X-ray machines
• CT
• Nuclear medicine lab

• Room size: 150 square feet
• Rooms: 54
• 12 with overnight accommodations
• 6 designed for multiples
• Family resource center: 470 square feet with kitchenette, washer, dryer and Wi-Fi

Want to see more of the new Woman's? Click here for a slideshow.

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