NEW BEDFORD — Southcoast Health announced today a plan that will dedicate the entire third floor of St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford to coordinated inpatient services for the care of mothers, newborns and children.

As part of the plan, the family-centered unit at Tobey Hospital in Wareham will close at the end of the year.

The state-of-the-art Women and Children’s Pavilion will include an enhanced model of care and offer residents throughout Southeastern Massachusetts “an exceptional patient experience during some of life’s most important moments,” according to a release.

The clinical setting builds upon the recent $14 million investment in the St. Luke’s Stoico/FIRSTFED Maternity Center. St. Luke’s Hospital’s Level II Nursery will offer a range of single-bed rooms equipped for couplet care, provided by Southcoast’s expert team of nurses and clinical staff, as well as Boston Children’s Hospital physicians.

The setting will enable continuous mother-child bonding and dedicated nursing staff assigned to one family throughout their stay. Southcoast Health will collaborate with providers, staff and community members during this process.

“St. Luke’s is rapidly becoming the region’s destination for starting and growing healthy families,” said Southcoast Health President and CEO Keith Hovan. “These continued improvements in quality and access are part of a natural progression — a bold, long-term vision to give our communities a world-class continuum of care close to home.”

St. Luke’s maternity services are recognized nationally for quality and offer the latest in delivery options.

The unit is approved for VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarian-section) procedures and hydrotherapy. St. Luke’s maternity unit is recognized as a Blue Cross Blue Shield Center of Distinction and received international recognition as a Baby-Friendly facility by Baby-Friendly USA in 2018.

“Our plans for St. Luke’s are unprecedented for both Southcoast Health and the South Coast as a region,” said Renee Clark, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “Providing patients with access to a range of support services — from patient advocates, child life specialists, and lactation consultants to Boston Children’s Hospital Network neonatologists — along with our outstanding providers and staff, we are able to offer truly exceptional care in a community setting. Our goal is compassionate care combined with clinical excellence, and we continue to refine our approach towards meeting that goal every day.”

As part of Southcoast Health’s broader plan, Tobey Hospital’s family-centered unit in Wareham will discontinue service on December 31, 2019, offering its patients the enhanced services in the Women and Children’s Pavilion at St. Luke’s in New Bedford less than 20 miles away from Tobey. This will ensure the success and sustainability of Tobey Hospital, where Southcoast Health is renovating and expanding the Emergency Department with a $25 million investment.

Expecting mothers planning to give birth at Tobey’s family-centered unit in 2020 will be contacted and guided to delivery accommodations of their choice, including St. Luke’s Women and Children’s Pavilion. 

Existing Ob/Gyn services (including childbirth education and breastfeeding support groups) and providers will remain in Wareham. Patients who have current scheduled deliveries at Tobey will be contacted by their Ob/Gyn to discuss their options. Southcoast Health Human Resources is working with current Tobey FCU staff to determine opportunities at both the St. Luke’s Women and Children’s Pavilion and the Family Centered Unit at Charlton Memorial Hospital.

Tobey Hospital sees 375 births on average annually, a number that has been steadily decreasing over the past several years. The Women and Children’s Pavilion at St. Luke’s Hospital will welcome the additional expecting mothers and continue to provide the highest level of clinical expertise for moms and babies, with an average of 1,500 babies delivered each year.

The exceptional maternity care delivered at Charlton Memorial Hospital, which is similar to St. Luke’s in birth volume and services, will remain unchanged and available to the greater Fall River community.

“The vision for the St. Luke’s Women and Children’s Pavilion is to provide an optimal birth environment for all families in the communities Southcoast Health serves, including the greater Wareham community,” said Deborah Toffey, RN, Executive Director of Southcoast’s Women and Children’s Care. “All decisions made as part of this plan are driven by the needs of our patients and the communities we serve.”