The north wing of Meriter Hospital will soon be exclusively dedicated to mother-baby care.

An ongoing construction project will add about 30,000 square feet to the hospital’s mother-baby care space, with a new triage area, a neonatal intensive care unit, birthing suites, ultrasound rooms and special suites to provide bed rest for women carrying high-risk pregnancies. Before construction started in January, the mother-baby space was about 89,000 square feet.

The project will help the hospital prepare for an anticipated 20 percent increase in patients in 2018 due to the addition of births from Group Health Cooperative, as well as the general yearly increase of babies born in Madison.

Meriter delivers more babies than any other Wisconsin hospital, at just over 4,000 deliveries last year.

The wing’s new triage space, which was still spotted with construction helmets and the smell of fresh paint Tuesday, is a cornerstone of the project. It will be the first new section of the wing to open in the second week of August.

Carla Griffin, the director of perinatal services, said a new lobby for the triage center will provide a better, larger area for families to wait.

Patient access, meanwhile, will be “much better, definitely for a woman in labor,” said Karen Kuenzi, charge nurse of the birthing center.

The triage center — the “point of entry” for any patient with a pregnancy-related concern — was previously on the fourth floor, and will now be on the hospital’s ground floor, with close access to the main lobby, Kuenzi said.

From the triage center, patients in labor are directed to the Labor and Delivery unit on the fourth floor.

Construction will add four labor rooms, for a total of 17.

The new triage area also has three additional rooms, and loops around a central nurse-provider workspace. Construction has allowed the hospital to update ergonomic features, such as computer setups, making the area more “nurse-friendly,” said Missy Binotto, nurse manager of the birthing center.

Former services offered in the north wing — inpatient rehabilitation and pediatric therapies — have moved to the UW Health Rehabilitation Hospital on Madison’s East Side, and Meriter’s Monona Clinic, respectively.

Although the entire space will be opened to the public in tiers, construction is expected to be complete by the end of November.


Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the nature of the arrangement between Meriter and Group Health Cooperative.

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Lexy Brodt is a local reporting intern for the Wisconsin State Journal.