A new chapter for women’s health care begins Monday in Walla Walla.

Ten months after construction began, the Women’s Clinic opens its doors to a new 7,950-square-foot facility at the Walla Walla Clinic campus.

The change is a relocation from 320 Willow St., where OB-GYN  providers of prenatal care have been just across the parking lot from the site of their deliveries at Providence St. Mary Medical Center.

Deliveries won’t change, Walla Walla Clinic CEO Kevin Michelson said. But as the primary pediatric and OB-GYN providers, the new location and expansion on the Walla Walla Clinic campus consolidates service locations from prenatal care through pediatrics and beyond.

“As we’ve grown in providers and added services, a new facility was really the best option,” Michelson said on a tour of the building.

Often mistaken as being under the Providence umbrella — likely because of proximity to the hospital — the Women’s Clinic became part of the Walla Walla Clinic operation in 1984, seven years after the Willow Street building was constructed.

A need for expansion began with the closure mid-2016 of then-Walla Walla General Hospital’s inpatient obstetrics services.

That hospital, which closed completely a year later, had two birthing suites and six patient recovery rooms for the roughly 266 babies it delivered on average each year. But declining birthrates overall and the cost of operations, which included employment of three OB-GYN providers, led to the closure.

The need for providers and services, however, remained.

On its end, Providence undertook a $3.2 million expansion of its Women & Children’s Services. That included an increase in birthing suite capacity by 50 percent, moving caesarean  section surgical suites to the labor and delivery floor, and reconfiguration of the entire department, along with its special care nursery.

For the Walla Walla Clinic-affiliated providers who bring an estimated 90 percent of the community’s babies into the world, though, an overhaul of their regular office space was needed, too, Michelson said.

On Friday, the Willow Street location was closed so the office could relocate to Walla Walla Clinic’s Tietan Street campus, next to pediatrics and family medicine.

Just 1,450 square feet larger than the previous office, the space is designed for both efficiency and comfort, said Women’s Clinic Director Katherine Boehm.

“I love how open it is, especially for the patient,” Boehm said. “I think it’s important for them to feel comfortable when they’re going to their OB-GYN.”

The front lobby includes a larger, open check-in and waiting area and children’s play spot. A hallway off that area leads to a cozy room designed as a more private spot for nursing, pumping and medical consultations.

Just steps away from there, the hallway Ts into a wide corridor. Ancillary rooms are set up along the way for supplies, labs, restrooms and more.

Each provider has an office and two exam rooms.

Inside the latter are ADA-accessible beds that lower for easier access for patients.

Large, colorful artwork pops off the walls, bringing splashes of brilliance through the otherwise neutrally designed space.

Eight providers — six physicians and two nurse practitioners — staff the space, along with eight other clinical and administrative support staff, including Boehm.

The construction has been more than two years in the making.

Walla Walla Clinic purchased three neighboring residential properties, which included demolition as part of the development.

Jackson Contractor Group led construction of the estimated $2.5 million project.

“I feel proud that we’ve done what we can do in response to crisis,” Michelson said of the women’s health need.

“It’s great to see the final product of what’s really been a two-year vision.”

The new space will also be a one-stop location for mammography work. The Women’s Clinic has a 3D machine for mammographies. Previously the operation had one machine at the Women’s Clinic and one at the Walla Walla Clinic locations.

While ear, nose and throat services remain at the Willow Street location, Walla Walla Clinic must now determine how to use the space formerly occupied by the Women’s Clinic.

“This will allow us to re-evaluate,” Michelson said. “We want to try to be conservative and mindful of how to grow and fill the needs in the community.”

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, vickihillhouse@wwub.com or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/VickiHillhouse.

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.

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