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Joy and celebration will be found in abundance this week at Community Medical Center as the community-owned nonprofit hospital shares two important milestones.

On Tuesday, the hospital welcomes the public to take a tour of the new state-of-the art $18 million Women’s and Newborn Center, and witness the groundbreaking of the $6.5 million new Community Oncology Center.

After years of planning, after countless focus group sessions, and after securing the funds for the projects, the time has come to celebrate.

“To see all of this go from concept to reality is pretty exciting,” said Stephen Carlson, president of Community Medical Center.

As he walked through the Women’s and Newborn Center on Sunday, Carlson said he is eager for the community to see for itself what 21st-century health care spaces can look like.

From layout and design, to how the halls and rooms are lighted, it is fair to say this space is unlike most labor and delivery areas.

Consider this: delivery rooms with private bathrooms that include a whirlpool bath; decorative paneling that conceals the numerous and intimidating-looking electrical outlets needed for medical equipment; and sound-proof rooms decorated in earth tone colors to assure privacy and a calm environment.

“We held focus groups for two years before we began building,”said Mary Windecker, CMC vice president. “What we heard is that mothers and families wanted a more spa-like feel and they wanted to give birth in a beautiful room.”

One of the signature elements to the several private labor and delivery rooms is a piece of furniture that looks like a wardrobe one might find in a nice hotel, but instead, is home to a heated bassinet.

The view outside the one-way windows in the private rooms looks out on an outdoor landscaped area with an enormous metal sculpture that includes motivational words – such as “hope” “courage” “harmony” and “tranquility”– that reflect the profound experience of birthing and birth.

There is a “hybrid” configuration to it all, Carlson explained, where medical staff can work collaboratively in larger spaces in the case of emergency situations or surgery, and more private spaces where patients can comfortably await the birth of a child.

Unlike the dark, sterile spaces of the past, this new center is designed to be a place filled with natural light. Gone too is the traditional large nursing station, and in its place, several smaller stations carefully considered and well placed throughout the hallways.

“We want nurses to be closer to the patients,” Carlson said, “and we want patients to know the nurses are always nearby.”

The fluid layout of public spaces and private spaces is not only unique to most medical facilities, but more importantly, is easier on the patients and the medical staff, Carlson said.

The new NICU expansion can serve upwards of 33 patients, and it means that CMC truly has the most sophisticated medical facility in Montana to serve mothers and newborns, Carlson said.

“Community has for decades been the leading center for the care of mothers and newborns in Montana, but space has always been an issue for us to meet the demand,” he said. “We knew we would need to expand in this area, and we knew in 2009 when we first started providing medical oncology services we would have to expand those services because we opened at capacity.

“We have worked very hard to position this hospital to take on these expansions. It was a lot of hard work, and it was done by our board of directors, our employees, and physicians and donors. Their hard work and vision made this possible.”

After the open house tour of the new Women’s and Newborn Center takes place, the public is invited to join Carlson and Missoula Mayor John Engen at the Oncology Center groundbreaking.

Construction on the new 15,000-square foot facility will begin at the end of October, and will officially mark a new chapter in the hospital’s medical direction, launching increased services to the care of cancer patients.

“We need more room to treat our patients,” Windecker said, “and with survivorship increasing and patient needs that spring up around that, we think a new oncology center is an excellent investment.”

After the public has come to participate in all the events on Tuesday, the cleaning and sterilization of the Women’s and Newborn Center will begin.

Time is of the essence, as an important due date looms, Windecker said.

“The first patients will be entered in the new triple-sized newborn and infant care unit on Oct. 22, and babies will start being born there.”

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