Mayo announces plans for Family Birth Center on Austin campus

Published 1:43 pm Thursday, August 16, 2018

Facility to be “state-of-the-art”


AUSTIN — Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin announced Thursday morning its plan to create a new third-floor Family Birth Center and a two-story connecting link between the main clinic entrance and the hospital on its Austin campus.

Mayo is making a $11.2 million investment into the center. Construction is expected to begin in mid-2019 and finish near the end of 2020.

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“This is an exciting modernization and expansion project that will serve our patients, staff and communities for years to come,” said Dr. Mark Ciota, CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin. “This expansion is the culmination of more than two years of analysis and planning to ensure the viability of our campuses and make the best use of our facilities and staff resources to serve our patients.”

Dr. Sumit Bhagra, medical director for Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin,  called the proposed expansion a “state-of-the-art facility” that will “enhance patient experience.”

An early design concept of what the new addition of the Family Birth Center will look like when it’s completed. – Provided

“This is great news,” Bhagra said. “It reiterates Mayo’s commitment to rural health.”

While the details continue to be finalized in the planning and design phases, a few details were released:

• The center will be built in the third-floor space currently occupied by the Women’s Special Care Unit and step-down/telemetry unit. It will also include additional construction for a large, comfortable family waiting area.

• The center will have 10 large rooms with private bathrooms to accommodate moms, babies and family members throughout the labor, delivery and recovery process.

When construction for the new Family Birth Center is completed, much more space will be available to not only staff, but patients and families, the hospital said. – Eric Johnson/Albert Lea Tribune

Ricky Thiesse, media specialist for Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, said presently there are five labor and delivery rooms at each the Albert Lea and Austin hospitals, along with four postpartum rooms at each. Patients have to be moved from one room to another, which is a dissatisfaction for many patients.

Patients will not have to be moved from one room to another in the new birth center, as the 10 rooms will double as labor and delivery rooms and postpartum rooms.

Thiesse said the decision of 10 larger rooms is based on labor and delivery volumes.

“Currently, the service area demand is approximately seven beds per day (for both facilities total),” he said. “With the new plan for 10 large patient rooms, along with the triage space, we are confident that the modernized facility will meet our patient needs.”

The front of Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin as it looks now. The Family Birth Center addition will be built onto the older portion, left, and allow patients, family and staff easier access, according to the hospital. – Eric Johnson/Albert Lea Tribune

• The center will include space for triage, a C-section suite and newborn nursery.

“The rooms in the Family Birth Center will be 58 percent larger than our current rooms, providing the space necessary to meet the needs of our patients, families and staff,” Bhagra said. “Mothers and their families will enjoy the comfort and enhanced amenities in these spacious rooms, which will also each have a private bathroom with tub and shower. The rooms will also accommodate the latest equipment and technology for our staff to deliver safe and efficient care and an improved birth experience.”

Another component of the Austin facility expansion is the addition of an extended “link” that will connect the main entrance of the medical center directly to the newly expanded units.

According to Ciota, patients and visitors currently must walk through the medical center to get to the hospital elevators. The extended link, which will be built along the north face of the building and add nearly 5,000 square feet of usable space with access to the existing elevators in the front entrance, will give patients and visitors easy access to the Family Birth Center and the future medical/surgical/pediatrics unit. The link will have a long wall of windows to flood the family waiting areas and patient care units with natural light.

A current room in the Women’s Special Care Unit, which after the complete rebuilding and transformation into the Family Birth Center will be larger to better accommodate patients and families. – Eric Johnson/Albert Lea Tribune

Ciota also addressed concerns about the proposed center’s services not being available in Albert Lea, saying Mayo cannot duplicate services on both sites.

“Our plan is to provide services within this area and we have to do it in such a manner that patients feel like they want to come here,” he said. “That is our goal, to build something that people want to come to and feel that it is worth their drive. We are also heavily investing in Albert Lea in certain other areas of health care as well. We are trying to build up both communities, both campuses so that the services you need will be close.”

Plans are moving forward with the modernization of the medical/surgical/pediatrics inpatient unit on the second floor of the medical center. This next phase will encompass the space occupied by the current inpatient psychiatric services unit, which is relocating to newly remodeled space on the Albert Lea campus later this year. Bhagra said information about that project could be released in early 2019.

The construction of these two large, integrated units will allow Mayo Clinic Health System to complete the transition of inpatient services by 2020 as planned.

“We are excited about the vibrant and healing space we’ll have for our patients and families,” Ciota said. “We look forward to involving the community as we move into the design phase for these units.”

Dr. Sumit Bhagra, medical director for Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, and Mark Ciota, CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, reveal plans for the new Family Birth Center and time frame for construction during a news conference Thursday. – Eric Johnson/Albert Lea Tribune