Construction of the $100 million Women and Babies Pavilion entered a new phase Monday as a crane hoisted the last steel beam and workers placed it on top of the four-story building on St. Luke's Anderson Campus in Bethlehem Township.
A handful of St. Luke’s University Health Network officials and employees watched the placement, known as a topping ceremony, which includes adding signatures to the beam and affixing an American flag and a small evergreen tree –said to be an ancient good luck symbol that signifies the completion of the building’s structure and that no one on the crew died.
The four-floor, 180,000-square-foot building is being built by Lendlease, an international construction company whose American headquarters are in New York. Schlosser Steel, based in Hatfield, is providing the steel beams.
The building is expected to open in 2020.
The facility will include two floors devoted to a labor and delivery unit, Level 3 neonatal intensive care and 36-bed medical/surgical unit. The post-partum unit has 32 beds and a 16-bassinet nursery, as well as 19 semi-private and eight private neonatal intensive care unit rooms. Many rooms will be flexible to enable families to stay.
Once the pavilion is completed, it will be the largest of the network’s three hospitals with obstetrics wards, said Ed Nawrocki, president, St. Luke’s Anderson Campus.
The NICU at St. Luke’s Bethlehem in Fountain Hill, currently a Level 3, will become a Level 2.
The location of the Women and Babies Pavilion on the Anderson campus is close to routes 33, 22 and Interstate 78 and helps extend St. Luke’s reach into Northampton and Monroe counties and Warren, N.J., Nawrocki said.
“This just continues our growth,” he said.
“The number of people who can come to Anderson is significant. It will be an extremely convenient location that’s easy to access and offers great physicians and a great patient experience.”
The building will also be home to an expanded graduate medical education program that will nearly double the number of residents and fellows to more than 400, the largest program in the Lehigh Valley. St. Luke’s plans to add 160 residents over a five-year period.
The residencies that will be added include neurology; psychiatry; dermatology; ear, nose and throat; emergency medicine; internal medicine and family medicine.
Nawrocki said officials added the new medical specialties based on a study of shortages in the region. Patients often have difficulty getting timely appointments and must wait months to see a physician.
The hope is the residency expansion will help St. Luke’s add new physicians to its roster to address a doctor shortage facing this region and others across the country, said Sam Kennedy, a spokesman for SLUHN.
Although the Lehigh Valley is faring better than most places, Kennedy said, “If we can train the doctors here they are more likely to stay here. It’s a lot harder to recruit physicians from elsewhere instead of growing our own.”