For years, the neighboring Abbott Northwestern and Children's hospitals in Minneapolis worked together to achieve some of the best outcome and survival rates in the country for babies born prematurely or with complications. But there was always concern about the time lost when specialists raced from Children's via a long tunnel under 26th St. to get to the delivery rooms at Abbott. And even greater concern when they had to separate frail infants from their mothers and usher them back under that same tunnel to the Children's neonatal intensive care unit.
The solution gets unveiled today -- the Mother Baby Center (on the Children's side of the street) that will put the pre- and post-delivery expertise of both hospitals under one roof. After this afternoon's media event, the official grand opening is Feb. 4.
"For those that have some degree of risk, we can now instantly mobilize all of the resources ... within a children's hospital to look after the baby without really separating the baby from his or her mother," said Dr. Alan Goldbloom, chief executive officer of Children's.
The $50 million center will expand Abbott's labor and delivery capacity from 4,000 babies a year to 5,000 and will feature more comfortable birthing suites and alternatives such as tubs for water births. It will also put 13 new delivery suites and 3 operating rooms adjacent to Children's existing NICU and a new critical care nursery.
"Many women are saying 'yes, we want a comfortable environment. We don’t want it to be cold and unpleasant, but at the same time we want to know we have all of the backup that we need if there are problems,'" Goldbloom said.
Abbott and Children's officials said this is a unique partnership, nationally, in which both organizations are sharing in the construction and operational costs.
Goldbloom said doctors from both hospitals have already been working closely on complicated pregnancies -- and detecting and preparing for certain types of birth defects or breathing problems in advance rather than discovering them and reacting after the deliveries. The new center will improve that collaboration, he said.
"When you know what's coming," he said, "you can have all of your resources ready to go."
The center comes at a time of declining births in Minnesota, and an aging of the population that might reduce the number of births even further. Hospital officials said the need for such a facility is nonetheless strong; around 10 to 12 percent of newborns at Abbott need some type of intensive follow-up care. That number is expected to hold steady or grow. More pregnancies involve women who are older or who have chronic conditions such as obesity and hypertension. Those raise the risks of complicated or multiple birth pregnancies and birth defects.