Fletcher Allen opens new birthing center

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(Host) Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington celebrated a milestone in the hospital’s controversial expansion project on Sunday. Politicians, philanthropists and community members attended the ceremonial opening of the new birthing center. It’s the first part of the hospital’s Renaissance Project to be completed.

The Claire M. Lintilhac Birthing Center is nearly twice the size of the former labor and delivery unit at Fletcher Allen. Director of Obstetrics Dr. Ira Bernstein says the new unit features a wireless fetal monitoring system, spacious delivery and surgical suites and close proximity to the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit. Visitors have also praised its welcoming aesthetics and panoramic views.

In his official remarks, Dr. Bernstein touched on a point that is difficult to ignore at Fletcher Allen, the troubled history of the construction project:

(Bernstein) “As I look out to all of you, I see a community that I want to thank for sticking by the health care professionals, who’ve worked hard to provide all of you [with] outstanding health care, at times during difficult moments over the last few years. I think that you’ll see the Renaissance Project was well worth the expense and that you will enjoy and appreciate what you see today.”

(Host) The Renaissance Project became mired in scandal when hospital administrators misled state regulators about the size and scope of the expansion. The project will eventually cost about 364 million dollars, more than three times the original estimate.

The birthing center is only one part of the expansion project, but the scandal did cause some Fletcher Allen staff members to question whether the long-promised facility would ever be built. Mary Clairmont is the nurse manager of the birthing center:

(Clairmont) “We’ve all had our doubts over the past couple of years. Was the Renaissance Project going to be continued? Were they going to continue with the birthing center? And sure enough, we were reassured by administration that, yes the birthing center was still a ‘go’ and it was going to be our space, that we were going to be moving into it, and we just had to believe and move forward. And we did, and we just can’t wait to get up here.”

(Host) The birthing center will continue to be outfitted with equipment over the next several days, while the staff is trained on new procedures. The first patients will move into the birthing center in about two weeks.

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