The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey recently demonstrated its commitment to families throughout Union County and the surrounding region, granting a $1 million investment in a project to modernize and enhance Overlook Medical Center’s Frank & Mimi Walsh Maternity Center.
The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, which works to reduce disparities in the delivery of healthcare and improve access to quality healthcare for vulnerable populations in the greater Newark, NJ area and the Jewish community of Greater MetroWest NJ, selected the maternity project at Overlook for its focus on addressing broad maternal health issues as well as ending disparities in care for underserved populations.
“The modernization of the Frank & Mimi Walsh Maternity Center strongly aligns with The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey’s long-standing work to improve the quality of maternal healthcare in our region,” said Michael Schmidt, executive director and CEO of the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey. “Our belief is that every family should receive high-quality, compassionate care when delivering a child, and this project will enable Overlook to deliver that level of care for generations to come.”
The project, which will reconfigure the maternity department, tripling the number of private rooms, enhancing the flow of patient-centered care and establishing new resources for families, is part of a multi-phase plan to expand and upgrade Overlook Medical Center. That plan is supported by Overlook Foundation’s ambitious capital campaign, “OverLook Ahead”. Construction for this project began this year and is anticipated to take about two years to complete.
“OverLook Ahead offers a chance for those from our community to contribute to making Overlook the place where patients and families can find the best care for generations to come,” said Clelia Biamonti, executive director of the Overlook Foundation. “The maternity center is an excellent example of how we are building to address the current and future needs of our communities.”
For Emre Kayaalp, MD, PhD, chair of obstetrics and gynecology, and Stacy Anne Mehciz, MPA, BSN, RN, director of nursing for women and children’s health services, who both joined Overlook this year to lead the maternity center, the reconfiguration of the center provides the opportunity to more fully address the changing maternity needs of families who are turning to Overlook.
“Overlook has increasingly become the destination for care for new and growing families. This requires not only that we grow and modernize, but also that we tailor our services to more efficiently deliver maternity care for these families and their babies,” said Dr. Kayaalp.
While births are trending down nationally, Overlook has seen an uptick in deliveries over the past two years. In fact, during the initial peak of the pandemic, Overlook saw an influx of patients from outside its usual area, including from New York City.
Overlook delivered 2,325 babies in 2020 and 2,560 babies in 2021. Overlook is on track to have 2,625 births in 2022.
“As our volume of patients has increased, so too has the number of families of diverse backgrounds, and underserved populations,” said Mehciz. “With the reconfiguration of our physical space and the delivery of care, we can make a real difference in helping these families access high quality care, and ultimately, better outcomes from the start of their babies’ lives.”
Overlook is uniquely located near some of the most diverse and historically underserved communities in New Jersey. In 2021, more than half of Overlook’s maternity patients identified as a race/ethnicity other than white and many face disparities in health care.
The project parallels state-wide efforts to improve maternal and infant health among New Jersey women and babies as well as address racial health disparities that are at the heart of a public health crisis in the state. According to the Nurture NJ Strategic Plan, New Jersey has the fourth highest maternal mortality rate in the United States, and black women in NJ are seven times more likely to die from pregnancy-associated causes than white women.
The maternity project will build a safe, high-quality and equitable continuum of care for all pregnant and postpartum mothers, particularly Overlook’s growing population of high-risk patients. This includes:
- Reconfiguring the maternity center’s floorplan to create a contiguous flow between the labor and delivery and postpartum units, and the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)
- Renovation of all labor and delivery rooms
- Creating 37 fully private postpartum rooms
- Creating a new four-bay triage and assessment area
- Creating a dual high-risk antepartum and postpartum area with four private rooms and critical diagnostic tools
The project also includes initiatives beyond physical construction, such as:
- Optimizing prenatal and postpartum care, with a targeted approach to reduce risk for vulnerable populations
- Continuing to offer virtual postpartum visits, implemented during the initial wave of COVID-19
- Optimizing the operations of Overlook’s HealthStart Clinic (a medical service for vulnerable women and their children)
- Leveraging the New Jersey Perinatal Quality Collaborative’s Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM)